Landon Wilson was forcefully discharged from the U.S. Navy after his superiors learned he transitioned from female to male.
The U.S. Defense Department still regards being transgender as a mental illness, meaning those transitioning while working are still banned from serving and are discharged for “health reasons.”
Wilson was working the graveyard shift in a windowless facility in Afghanistan on December 7, 2013, monitoring a Special Operations mission through video feeds when a senior asked him to come outside.
“The Navy record says female, but this paper says male,” the senior said, according to the Washington Post. “So, what are you?”
Though Wilson joined the Navy as a woman, he was now a male. “I am male,” he replied.
With more and more service members having medical procedures to have their bodies match with their identified genders, medical experts are urging the Defense Department to have the policy on transgendered service people changed.
“It’s a terrible tragedy our people are facing in our great country for no other reason than the fact that they want to express their gender,” Joycelyn Elders, former U.S. surgeon general who co-chaired a study recommending the military lift the ban on transgender personnel. “We could find no credible medical reason for why transgender persons should be discharged or not allowed in the service.”
In March, the Palm Center, a public policy group that focuses on gender, sexuality and the military, argued the military could allow transgender personnel to serve as there is no medical basis in the current policy.
“Medical regulations requiring the discharge of transgender personnel are inconsistent with how the military regulates all other medical and psychological conditions and transgender-related conditions appear to be the only gender-related conditions that require discharge irrespective of fitness for duty,” the report said. “There is no compelling medical reason for the ban [on transgender personnel].”
Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Cathy Wilkinson said the Defense Department doesn’t know how many people have been discharged for being transgender and that, although the medical policies are constantly being reviewed, the Pentagon has no plans to change the medical qualification standards on gender disorder.
“In doing these reviews, the department considers that service members must serve in austere environments, many of which make necessary and ongoing treatments related to sex reassignment and many other conditions untenable,” she said.
Though discharged, Wilson says the military is what helped him transition.
“The military gave me the backbone to transition, to be who I am, because they look so fondly on honor and courage and all those things you have to have to be fully authentic,” he said. “I don’t think I would have gotten to where I am today without that.”