Cana­dian Forces wel­come trans­gen­der troops

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - LEE BERTHIAUME

OT­TAWA — The Cana­dian Forces says it is press­ing ahead with im­prove­ments to its trans­gen­der pol­icy, even as U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump looks to bar trans­gen­der peo­ple from mil­i­tary ser­vice south of the bor­der.

Trump sur­prised many Wed­nes­day when he an­nounced on Twit­ter that he was re­in­stat­ing a ban on trans­gen­der peo­ple serv­ing in uni­form, af­ter the pre­vi­ous Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion lifted the ban last year.

It also cast a light on the Cana­dian Forces, which lifted its own ban on trans­gen­der peo­ple and LGBT mem­bers fol­low­ing a court case in 1992 — a fact the Forces high­lighted on its own Twit­ter ac­count Wed­nes­day.

“We wel­come (Cana­di­ans) of all sex­ual ori­en­ta­tions and gen­der iden­ti­ties,” the mil­i­tary wrote un­der a pic­ture of three sailors play­ing in­stru­ments at a re­cent Pride pa­rade. “Join us!”

Na­tional De­fence spokesper­son Daniel Le Bouthillier said work con­tin­ues on an up­date to the Cana­dian mil­i­tary’s trans­gen­der pol­icy, which first came into ef­fect in 2012.

While many of the changes are ex­pected to be tech­ni­cal in na­ture, it is also ex­pected to give com­mand­ing of­fi­cers and units more guid­ance when it comes to such ba­sics as bath­rooms and show­er­ing.

The up­date, which started last year, is ex­pected to be com­plete in the fall.

There are no of­fi­cial fig­ures for how many trans­gen­der peo­ple are in the Forces, but es­ti­mates have put the num­ber at about 200.

Le Bouthillier also said the mil­i­tary has paid for 19 sex-re­as­sign­ment op­er­a­tions be­tween 2008 and Oc­to­ber 2015, at a to­tal cost of around $309,000. That works out to about $16,200 per op­er­a­tion.

While the costs do not in­clude any hor­mone ther­apy, Alan Okros, an ex­pert on di­ver­sity in the mil­i­tary at the Cana­dian Forces Col­lege, said many ser­vice mem­bers re­ceive such treat­ment for var­i­ous con­di­tions — not just sex re­as­sign­ment.

By com­par­i­son, Vet­er­ans Af­fairs Canada spent nearly $20 mil­lion on med­i­cal mar­i­juana last year.

Okros also said he was un­aware of any neg­a­tive im­pacts that al­low­ing trans­gen­der peo­ple to serve in uni­form has caused on op­er­a­tions or the mil­i­tary’s over­all abil­ity to do its job.

Canada is one of 18 coun­tries that cur­rently al­low trans­gen­der mil­i­tary per­son­nel, which in­cludes Is­rael, Aus­tralia, Bri­tain, Ger­many and France. “The dis­rup­tion fac­tor is not a ma­jor is­sue for these coun­tries at all,” Okros said. “So some of (Trump’s) ob­jec­tions are based on con­cerns or ex­ag­ger­a­tions that aren’t borne out.”

Ran­dall Gar­ri­son, who serves as both the NDP’s de­fence critic and its LGBTQ critic, called on Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau to de­nounce Trump’s “de­spi­ca­ble” com­ments.

De­fence Min­is­ter Har­jit Sa­j­jan’s of­fice noted trans­gen­der mil­i­tary per­son­nel have been al­lowed to serve openly for 25 years.

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