A gay-rights advocate hailed development of the guidelines as a progressive approach to people whose gender issues can trigger life-threatening psychological troubles.
Cherie MacLeod, executive director of PFLAG Canada, a sexual orientation-related support group, said she has helped a number of Forces members undergoing sex changes, surgery the military now funds.
“This is an important step towards recognizing a community that has always struggled for equal rights and basic human protection,” said Ms. MacLeod. “When government becomes more inclusive, over time, society will follow.”
Some within the Forces, though, were irked by the document’s appearance in e-mail boxes last week, just after a report by the military ombudsman that lambasted the National Defence Department for giving short shrift to the grieving families of fallen soldiers.
The armed services are still largely the domain of men who view themselves as “warriors,” believe headquarters staff are out of touch, and resent what they consider “politically correct” policies, said Scott Taylor, publisher of Esprit de Corps, a military-affairs magazine.
“You couldn’t get much worse timing on that internally,” he said, referring to the juxtaposition of the transsexual document and the ombudsman’s report. “It’s so removed from what the guys are facing over in Afghanistan ... That doesn’t really relate to dress codes of the transgendered.”
The National Defence Department, which helps an average of one or two of its troops through sex changes a year, drew up the report in response to questions from administrative staff, said Rana Sioufi, a department spokeswoman.
“The CF is unique in that it must recruit, house, clothe, train and deploy its members,” she said. “This requires clear direction and standardized instructions to deal with individuals who may not fall into the generally accepted gender categories.”
Psychiatrists say true transsexual people essentially feel imprisoned in a body of the wrong sex, and are at high risk for anxiety, depression and suicide. Most provincial governments fund sexual-reassignment surgery under medicare for such patients.
Added as a chapter to a National Defence manual, the new document defines transsexual as someone with a psychological need to live as a member of the opposite sex, whether they have undergone sex-change surgery or not. Their unit must treat them with the “utmost privacy and respect,” meaning, for instance, that there is no need to explain why a person’s sex is being changed in computer records.
A transsexual service person must comply with the dress code and standards of deportment of the gender to which he or she is changing, the document says. It draws the line, though, at retroactively changing the name associated with any medals awarded to the individual before their change, saying “there is no legal authority for rewriting history.”
While a written policy document on transsexuals is new, the Forces have been dealing with the issue for over a decade, paying for the first sex change of a member in 1998.
Cpl. Natalie Murray, an IT technician at Canadian Forces Base Trenton in eastern Ontario who made the transition more recently, told the CBC Radio show Day 6 last week that many of her colleagues were supportive as she started the process. Some superiors, however, attempted to push her out of the army, she said.
“They try and turn things around and invent an excuse so they can get rid of you, and they almost succeeded, but fortunately cooler heads way up high prevailed,” Cpl. Murray told CBC. “There shouldn’t be any issue at all. We’re just regular people doing a regular job, the same job as everybody else.”
This article's a month old but I don't remember it being posted. Major facepalm at the article equating trans folks with glb people. But I'm really hopeful this means more inclusion in the Canadian military. It's silly to think that the military can't address this issue while also seeing to the valid concerns about helping grieving families. Those big, strong soldiers can deal with it, for trans service members (remembering that lots of trans people don't choose surgery) this is pretty damned relevant. The thing about medals made me =/ though.
This plus news about Bill C-389, which would amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code to include gender identity and gender expression as protected classes, is making me really hopeful for trans rights in Canada.