Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2020-07-08
About WCMG Publications News  Entertainment Features Donate Bars & Clubs Calendar Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage



Palm Center's Belkin seeks to end military trans* ban
by Gretchen Rachel Blickensderfer

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

      More Photos

One of the many LGBTQ pioneers celebrated by the Legacy Project is Dr. Michael Dillon—noted by the Chicago outdoor museum and youth education program's plaque as "the first person known to have transitioned both hormonally and surgically from female to male." A skilled doctor, he joined the British Merchant Navy in the early fifties. He was outed a few years later and promptly left the service, passing away in 1962.

On August 20, 2014—over half a century after his death—the British newspaper The Daily Mail reported on Deborah Penny—"the first transgender soldier on the front line in British army history," it said. The article went on to detail how Penny had "won the respect of her comrades for her courage." The British, Canadian, Australian, Israeli and Spanish militaries are counted among the countries that allow transgender service members to serve openly. The American military does not.

On the evening the story about Penny broke, prolific author, activist and the founder and Executive Director of the Palm Center Aaron Belkin spoke to a crowded room of people in the gallery of the Keith House in Chicago. Hosted by the Windy City Times and Northern Trust, the discussion was entitled "We Have Waited Long Enough: Open Transgender Service in the U.S. Military."

In his book "How We Won: Progressive Lessons from the Repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell", Belkin recalled part of the strategy used to finally put an end to the statute. "Political and military leaders, as well as the public at large, had to be convinced that allowing gay men and lesbians to serve openly would not harm the military," he wrote. "It didn't matter that scholars already knew that the Pentagon wasn't telling the truth. The key was to get the American people to understand."

Missing from those conversations were the some 15,500 ( according to Belkin ) transgender service members currently in the various branches of the military.

"The whole [LGB] community—and I include myself—really left the trans* community behind during the Don't Ask Don't Tell ( DADT ) repeal," Belkin told Windy City Times. "That's just not acceptable. As far as I can tell, the ban on transgender service members is the only part of the whole federal government that requires discrimination. It's time to get rid of the trans* ban."

Belkin added that—despite some movement from the Obama administration on the issue—removal of the ban may be a long struggle. "We may be pushing against a house of cards," he said. "The question is—as a community—will enough pressure be generated on the White House to compel them to take action?"

Introduced to the audience by Jean Albright who served for 20 years in the United States Air Force and is a member of the American Veterans for Equal Rights ( AVER ), Belkin described the transgender ban as one of the most "odious sights in American democracy and American citizenship."

"Here is a case where federal regulation requires the state to go after a class of people just for who they are," he said. "That—to me—is a very dangerous precedent. That cheapens the meaning if citizenship when we maintain policies that force the government to go after people who haven't done anything wrong."

Of further concern to Belkin is the lives transgender service members are forced to lead. "They have to lie about who they are," he said. "They can't access medically necessary health care and they can't even get into the military if recruiters find out that they're trans*."

Belkin also pointed out a critical difference between the trans* ban and DADT. "The transgender prohibition is a regulation not a statute," he said. "That is critically important because that means President Obama or Secretary of Defense Hagel could get rid of it with the stroke of a pen."

Those prohibitions on transgender enlistment and retention in the military revolve chiefly around perceived medical and psychological issues.

Regarding the ban on enlistment, "the physical piece says that you can't have abnormal genitals which include genitals altered by affirming surgery," Belkin said. He added that there is also a psychological component to the restriction that is focused upon "trans*identity".

"These bans are articulated both at the level of Defense Department-wide regulations and also in service-specific regulations," Belkin said.

In April 2014, a Defense Department spokesman told Windy City Times "Policies on military personnel and health care regarding transgender members are intended to meet the needs of the services, which include the ability to deploy to and serve in austere environments with limited ( and perhaps no ) access to medical care for prolonged periods on little or no notice."

"The people who wrote the medical regulations did so behind closed doors," Belkin said. "These regulations have language that's—in some cases—thirty years old. So in one sense there is no official rationale for the transgender ban."

He noted that, in several legal cases, the US military defended its ban on the grounds that "cross-sex hormone therapy is just too complicated to administer. A trans*service member could lose their medications."

Belkin went on to say that the military claims gender affirming surgery "is too complicated and we basically can't be bothered to develop the expertise. In terms of mental health, being transgender is a mental illness and we can't allow a mentally ill population to serve in uniform."

Version five of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders ( DSM ) no longer lists transgender people as suffering from a mental disorder.

Among Belkin's audience were Jim Darby and Patrick Bova who were quintessential figures not only in the fight for marriage equality but in the repeal of DADT. They told Windy City Times that they are similarly committed to seeing the trans*ban removed.

"Everybody helped us when we had our fight," Darby said. "Now it's our turn to help them."

For more information on the work of the Palm Center, please go to

For more information on American Veterans for Equal Rights ( AVER ), please go to .

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


Gay News

NUNN ON ONE PHOTOGRAPHY Peter Bussian focuses on New York's trans community 2020-07-08 - Peter Bussian is a visual artist who continually promotes international themes in his work. He's been published in The New York Times, LA ...

Gay News

NATIONAL Brayla Stone, anti-LGBTQ attacks, Virginia Values Act, Fire Island 2020-07-07 - Brayla Stone, a 17-year-old Black trans girl, was murdered in Sherwood, Arkansas, near Little Rock on June 25, a National Black Justice Coalition ...

Gay News

WORLD Russian trans woman's win, Pride marches, museum CEO resigns 2020-06-29 - In Russia, a transgender woman won a landmark decision for trans rights and recognition after being fired from her job—but is now living ...

Gay News

Grassroots march focuses on Black, Brown trans lives 2020-06-28 - Organized by a host of grassroots organizations focused on assisting marginalized communities around the city, the Pride Without Prejudice/Reclaim Pride march kicked off ...

Gay News

Lambda files suit over Trump anti-trans policies 2020-06-26 - Lambda Legal announced June 22 that it is suing the federal government over rollbacks the Trump administration announced June 12 to protections against ...

Gay News

Groups respond to Indianapolis archdiocese's anti-trans guidelines 2020-06-25 - Pro-LGBTQ organizations responded to news about the Indianapolis archdiocese issuing new guidelines warning that transgender students may not be able to enroll in ...

Gay News

At least two marches centering on Black trans Chicagoans planned for June 28 SEE UPDATE 2020-06-24 - UPDATE: ACTIVATE:CHI march and rally cancelled. . The grassroots activist organization ACTIVATE:CHI announced June 19 that it is collaborating with ...

Gay News

Local transgender man on being affected by healthcare rollback 2020-06-24 - Oli Rodriguez is a transgender man who hopes to carry a child and become a father in the near future. Following news ...

Gay News

Organizations respond to murder of trans Chicagoan 2020-06-24 - A number of organizations released statements on the May murder of a Chicago Latinx transgender woman who, at the time of her death, ...

Gay News

TELEVISION Marvel's first openly trans actor on Pride, BLM and Hollywood 2020-06-24 - Zach Barack made cinematic history as Marvel's first openly trans actor in the 2019 film Spider-Man: Far from Home. He talked with Windy ...


Copyright © 2020 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.







About WCMG Publications News  Entertainment Features Donate Bars & Clubs Calendar Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.