Friday, October 24, 2014

Cross-Border | US military urged to follow Canada transgender policy

Cpl. Natalie Murray, a Canadian Forces member, spoke at a conference in Washington, D.C., on Monday, where she shared her experience of transitioning from male to female while serving in the air force. The United States military does not allow transgender members. Canada does.
Cpl. Natalie Murray, a Canadian Forces member, spoke at a conference in Washington, D.C., on Monday, where she shared her experience of transitioning from male to female while serving in the air force. The United States military does not allow transgender members. Canada does. (Meagan Fitzpatrick/CBC News)
There are many things that make Canada distinct from the United States but aside from the usual clichĂ©s — passion for hockey, maple syrup, and Timbits — there is perhaps a lesser known difference when it comes to our militaries.

The Canadian Forces has something the American military does not: a policy that allows transgender people to serve. In the U.S., Pentagon rules prohibit transgender members and if they're discovered, the military can discharge them.

At a conference on Monday in Washington, D.C., Canada was held up as a model for the U.S. to follow, along with other countries that allow transgender members including Australia, the United Kingdom, Sweden and New Zealand.



Canadian Lt.-Cmdr. Nicole Lassaline spoke on a panel about Canada's policies, medical and otherwise, and best practices, and Cpl. Natalie Murray shared her personal experience as a transsexual woman who transitioned from male to female while in the air force.

"I love my job," Murray said in an interview. But despite Canada's more accommodating policy, it still hasn't been a smooth ride for her over the past decade.

"It was rough to say the least," she said. Murray, who currently works at CFB Comox on Vancouver Island, began her transition in 2003 and was the eighth Canadian Forces member to do so.

She said she experienced harassment and that some of her coworkers, and superiors, tried to force her out of her job. Before Comox, Murray worked at CFB Bagotville, CFB North Bay, was deployed to Bosnia and also worked at CFB Trenton.

"They wanted to get rid of me as quickly as they could, either out of the military, out of the Canadian Forces as a whole or for that matter off the planet — which they came very close to doing," said Murray.

Murray echoed the sentiments of other panellists from Sweden, Australia and New Zealand who talked about the stress, depression and feelings of suicide that transgender people hiding their secret can experience.

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