Openly Trans Active Military Soldier Fights for Equality: ‘Administratively, I Shouldn’t Exist — But I Do’

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Sergeant Shane Ortega began his transition four years ago while serving in the U.S. Army.
Prior to enlisting, Ortega served two tours with the U.S.
Marine Corps. However, it was until Ortega decided to join the Army that
he felt it was time to live his life as an openly transgender man.
Under the guidance of his own doctor and a military
physician, Ortega underwent hormone therapy while simultaneously
fulfilling his duties.

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His transition presented a bit of a challenge for the Army.
Although he had been living full-time as a man since 2001 and had taken
all of the governmental steps to be recognized as such, the Army has
had a difficult time processing his identity.
via Towleroad:
The Army’s current views on
transgender-identified people are complicated. Like all American
military services, the Army still has provisions on the books that
automatically label openly trans people from enlisting.
It typically assumes that
all trans-people suffer from gender dysphoria, a form of mental anxiety
associated with being profoundly at odds with one’s biological gender.
Gender dysphoria is considered an adequate reason for dismissing
officers, but Ortega has been repeatedly deemed not to suffer from the
disorder by Army doctors.
Ortega’s been able to
continue his service, but the Army’s views on his gender have led to a
number of odd and ultimately discriminatory decisions about just how he
can service. Technically speaking the Army consider Ortega to be a woman
despite his assertions to the contrary. Following a routine physical it
was determined that the amount of testosterone in Ortega’s bloodstream
was abnormally high–a result of his hormone treatment. He was
subsequently barred from his duties as a helicopter crew chief.
Rather than remain stuck in
procedural limbo Ortega has taken the proactive route and is now
agitating for the Department of Defense to make make its decision about
his ability to serve clear. In recent months he has become more open
about his fight for recognition within the military in hopes of
demonstrating that trans people can be just as able and committed to the
service as their cis counterparts.
In an interview with the Washington Post, Ortega told the publication
“One thing my father always said was, ‘Be the change you want to see in the world,’ I definitely wanted to be that change.”
As of February, Pentagon spokesman Nate Christensen
informed Ortega that the Department of Defense is actively reviewing
it’s policies and that the potential policy revision could help future
trans service members.
There’s no exact time frame as to when the review will be
completed nor has there been word as to whether the review will get into
the Department of Defense’s treatment of trans people.
Until the review is complete, Ortega isn’t sure whether he has a future with the Army.
“As I fight for my country in foreign
lands, all I want it is to be able to serve openly while keeping the
job that I love,” Ortega explained in a public statement. “I will
continue to fight this fight for the 700,000 transgender veterans that
have gone before me who were forced to choose between serving their
country and being true to who they are.”

We salute you, Sergeant Ortega. Keep fighting to be who you are!

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