Military Transitions: Australia Supports Transitioning Soldier

While the US continues to dither over DADT, its military allies have moved way beyond lesbian and gay inclusion, to providing also for transgender service – and full support during the transitioning process.  News from Australia is that military authorities there will not only allow a transitioning soldier to continue to serve after transitioning, they will provide full support during the process (including state funding for the surgery). I known of at least one similar case from South Africa – I am certain there are others elsewhere.

Somewhere along the line of modern history, the myth arose that only hetero males could make good soldiers – completely overlooking the evidence from around the world that in some societies, women, gay men, and transgender people have frequently served with distinction.  Classical Greek history and literature are littered with pairs of military lovers, including the renowned Sacred band of Thebes, which was exclusively composed of such pairs. Similarly, the famed Japanese Samurai mentored younger men who served also as sexual partners. Many African societies had entire regiments of fighting women, including the Amazons of Dahomey and Shaka’s Zulus in Southern Africa. In North America, the widespread institution of the berdache included many instances where biological males adopted female dress and roles – but also fought with distinction in military battles. It is good to see how so many countries in the modern world are putting historic myths and prejudices aside, to focus only on service members’ abilities, and not their genital or psychosexual characteristics.

When with the US finally follow suit?

Tammy (left) and Bridget Clinch.

From the Australia Herald Sun:

Sex-change case through Defence

DEFENCE force chiefs will pay for the sex change operation of a soldier who wants to return to work.

Army Captain Matthew Clinch, who served twice in East Timor, will become Bridget Clinch after gender reassignment-realignment surgery, funded by taxpayers.

Victorian RSL president Maj-Gen David McLachlan said he was surprised the Army was picking up the tab.

“It seems a little odd that they would allow such an abnormal situation get this far,” Maj-Gen McLachlan said. “The soldier involved would be putting themselves in a situation where they would be subjected to all sorts of peer pressure.”

Asked if paying for the surgery was a good use of defence funds, he said: “It’s unusual.”

Capt Clinch is in Brisbane with partner Tammy and two daughters on extended sick leave from her job as second-in-command of the army’s Adventurous Training Wing based at Wagga in southern NSW, but wants her former job back.

Appearing on Seven’s Sunday Night last night the decorated East Timor veteran, who did two tours of duty with the Townsville-based 1st Battalion, said she’d always felt like a woman locked in a man’s body. “There is no difference between what I can do and what any other female can do once I’ve finished all of my treatment,” Capt Clinch said. Tammy, who also trained as an army officer and describes Capt Clinch as her “knight in shining armour”, is angry the military took so long to agree to fund the treatment.

“Matt was a good army officer, I think that Bridget will make a better army officer, they just need to realise it.

“I saw my partner suffering really badly and I helped him. It was hard though because I was helping destroy the outside bit of the man I loved.”

Read the full report

Recommended Books

Naphy, William: Born to be Gay: A History of Homosexuality

Roughgarder, Joan: Evolution’s Rainbow: Diversity, Gender, and Sexuality in Nature and People

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