The U.S. Army has decided to allow Staff Sergeant Patricia King, the first openly transgender service member in the history of the United States, to remain an active duty soldier despite policies that state transgender individuals cannot serve.
In July 2015 Defense Secretary Ash Carter made a statement that made it clear that the most important qualification for a service member should be whether or not they’re able and willing to do their job, not their sexual orientation or gender. Carter stated:
“…we have transgender soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines – real, patriotic Americans – who I know are being hurt by an outdated, confusing, inconsistent approach that’s contrary to our value of service and individual merit,”
Since that time women have been approved to join certain branches of the military in combat roles and are required to register for the selective service. However, the biggest stride made for the LGBT was made by Patricia King, a transgender man serving as a squad leader in the United States Army Infantry.
King has served the military for over 15 years and served three tours as an infantryman in Afghanistan. King, who was born a man, claims to have made the decision to transition to a woman while deployed in Afghanistan after struggling with the decision for almost 25 years.
King is part way through the process. She has undergone hormone replacement therapy for the past 15 months and has had other more superficial procedures, such as laser hair removal, completed.
King claims that her decision to transition into a woman has had no effect on her ability to do her job and should therefore not be taken into consideration when determining whether or not she can serve her country. Listen to King describe her experience transitioning while in the military below.
King could technically be kicked out of the army under the current guidelines. However, since Carter has made it clear that job performance trumps gender identity the Army has not been pursing any discharges of transgender soldiers serving in the military.