CGO leads first Schriever transgender panel

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo --

Schriever members gathered for a Company Grade Officers’ Council transgender panel May 17.

 Former Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter announced June 30, 2016, that transgender service members would be able to openly serve in the U.S. Armed Forces. However, the policy for accepting new troops is scheduled to be developed and phased in this year.

“The purpose of this was to have an open forum discussion on the transgender policy,” said 1st Lt. Lindsay Winningham, 50th Operations Support Squadron intel representative. “There are a lot of burning questions here at Schriever regarding that. This was our chance to use the CGOC to help out in answering those policy questions and scoping it out even further to any general questions that they had.”

Panel members included: Capt. Robert Fuller, 50th Space Wing assistant staff judge advocate; 1st Lt. Zachary Hornberger, military personnel section chief; Capt. Christopher Noullet, 21st Medical Operations Squadron; Mary Malia, Inside/Out Youth Services executive director; and Shari Zabel, Springs Equality chief executive officer.

“This is really new to a lot of people and after seeing it on the news, they want to know how it’s going to affect their workspace environment and those they work with,” said Capt. Nathaniel Lee, 50th Operations group executive officer. “Giving them the opportunity to hear right from these services that are there for Airmen, provided a great opportunity to ask questions.”

Panel attendees asked questions and voiced concerns regarding issues transgender military members face such as updating their Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System information, physical fitness standards, uniform requirements and the transitional stages.

According to Department of Defense Instruction 1300.28 In Service Transition for Transgender Service Members, “gender transition begins when a service member receives a diagnosis from a military medical provider indicating gender transition is medically necessary; it concludes when the service member’s gender marker in DEERS is changed and the member is recognized in the preferred gender. At that point, the service member will be responsible for meeting all applicable military standards in the preferred gender, and as to facilities subject to regulation by the military, will use those berthing, bathroom, and shower facilities associated with the preferred gender.”

The panel made a point to emphasize the policy would not impact mission readiness.

“From a transgender person’s perspective who served in the military, both the military and the transgender service member will have to be communicating and working together on any issues,” said Zabel. “The transitional process is three to five years, however the transgender member is still able to deploy. Each stage takes time during the process, but many of them would still allow one to go about their normal lives. What’s important to remember is if someone is going through the process, it doesn’t mean the member is disqualified from deployment for all those transitional years.”

Schriever Airmen were informed that more learning opportunities, education and efforts are needed for the discussion beyond this particular panel.

“Our core values are very clear; and they are not consistent with discrimination of any kind,” Lee said. “If anyone feels they are being discriminated against in any way, it is important to know the Air Force is here to support them. Fortunately, this is now a Department of Defense policy; that was a long time coming. It is comforting for all of us to know that the DoD has their back.”