Laila Villanueva Ireland and her then-fiance, Logan Ireland, left met President Barack Obama during a June, 2015 reception at the White House. (Photo courtesy Logan Ireland)
Declaring that it is the right thing to do, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced Thursday, June 30, that transgender people will be allowed to service openly in the U.S. military.
“Our mission is to defend this country, and we don’t want barriers unrelated to a person’s qualification to serve preventing us from recruiting or retaining the soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine who can best accomplish the mission,” Carter said during a Pentagon press conference.
“Americans who want to serve and can meet our standards should be afforded the opportunity to compete to do so,” he added, laying out the year-long plan that will clear the way.
By Oct. 1, transgender troops should be able to receive medical care and begin formally changing their gender identifications in the Pentagon’s personnel system. A year from now, Carter said, the military services will begin allowing transgender individuals to enlist, as long as they meet the required standards and have been stable in their identified gender for 18 months.
Laila Ireland, who separated from the U.S. Army last December and now works with SPARTA (Servicemembers, Partners, Allies for Respect and Tolerance for All) as an advocate for trans men and women in the military, said earlier this week that lifting the ban would be “no big deal, really,” for the military, but that it will be “a huge deal” for the trans men and women already serving, and those who plan to serve.
“The repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell [the policy that kept lesbians and gays from serving openly] allowed people already in the military to breathe, to be themselves,” Ireland. “It wasn’t a big deal for the military. It was just business as usual for the military. But for the people who could finally relax and not have to hide anymore, it was amazing.
“It will be the same way for transgender people in the military,” she continued. “There’s still a ton of work to do. It’s an ever-changing situation. But at least it will allow trans people to serve, to stop hiding.”
Ireland, a trans woman, chose to separate from the Army on a medical discharge, rather than risk being discharged for being transgender. In May, she married DFW native Logan Ireland, a transgender man serving in the U.S. Air Force, who is the first person to have his gender marker changed while serving in the military. The couple area currently in the middle of a move to Petersen Air Force Base in Colorado.
Laila Ireland said this week that while lifting the ban wouldn’t have any immediate effect on her or her husband, it could change the future.
“This gives me an opportunity to actually revisit the idea of wanting to be in the military,” she said. “I could re-enlist now, and serve openly, without having to worry about being discharged because I am transgender.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 1, 2016.