Conn. Service Members Await Updated Guidance After Lifting of Transgender Military Ban

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Eight weeks ago, President Joe Biden lifted the ban on transgender people serving in the military and directed top commanders to write instructions on how the new policy would be carried out.

Active service members, who came out as transgender during the Trump-era ban, are anxiously waiting for those instructions so they can complete their transitions and be recognized as the gender they identify with.

Danielle Bradley is one of them. She grew up in Rocky Hill, Connecticut and serves as a second class electricians mate in the United States Navy.

“Until the appeal just went through back in January, I’ve been constantly worried that I would be kicked out,” said Bradley. “I’ve been trying to make sure I have various job offers available if necessary.”

Bradley joined the Navy 11 years ago and came out as transgender in 2019, after former President Trump had barred transgender people from joining the armed forces and being able to transition gender while serving.

Corinne Smith, a Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, who previously spent six years working at the submarine base in Groton, also felt the weight of that risk. She came out as transgender last year.

“I was ok with that. I was sort of done being disingenuous to myself for the rest of my life and regardless of the cost, that’s what I needed to do,” Smith said.

At the time, neither of them knew if then President Trump would win reelection, so they both submitted waivers, hoping to stay in the navy.

“The uncertainty of not knowing what was going to happen, that was difficult and having to see 15 years of my career end without getting to the finish line and enjoying all those benefits that you’ve earned,” Smith said.

President Biden directed the Pentagon last week to lift former President Trump's ban on transgender military service members. Zeke Stokes, a producer of the documentary TransMilitary, joined LX News to discuss why this move is important for all trans Americans.

Months later, newly elected President Biden issued an executive order lifting the ban. Smith and Bradley’s fears of being separated from the Navy dissipated.

“With the ban being lifted, I was definitely experiencing a sense of relief,” said Smith.

“Nowhere nearly as anxious as I used to be,” said Bradley. “Definitely looking forward to the future now.”

Bradley’s waiver was just signed on Friday. Smith is still waiting for her waiver to get approved. The next step for each of them will be to change their gender markers. Until that is changed, they both have to continue dressing like a man at work, keeping their hair short and using male restrooms.

President Biden’s executive order directed the Secretary of Defense to "immediately prohibit involuntary separations, discharges, and denials of reenlistment or continuation of service on the basis of gender identity."

The secretary was also directed to work on establishing new policies that would allow service members to transition genders while serving. The secretary was given a deadline of 60 days or Friday, March 26, to report back.

A spokesperson with the office said it is premature to comment, but referred us to a statement from Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III. He wrote in part:

“We should avail ourselves of the best possible talent in our population, regardless of gender identity. We would be rendering ourselves less fit to the task if we excluded from our ranks people who meet our standards and who have the skills and the devotion to serve in uniform. This is the right thing to do. It is also the smart thing to do.”

Both Smith and Bradley said that since coming out as transgender, the vast majority of their coworkers in the U.S. Navy have been accepting.

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