Publication Date

2016

Abstract

In 2010, the Australian Defence Force (ADF) repealed a Defence Instruction that had effectively barred transgender people from serving. Transgender personnel have slowly been coming out since 2010, positioning Australia as an international leader in terms of recognizing the contribution that transgender and gender diverse people can make to military institutions. Yet ADF documents, media reports, and the testimonies of transgender personnel, past and present, suggest a more complex picture of evolving ADF policies toward transgender personnel. This article traces the history of ADF policies toward transgender service and focuses on the medical frameworks deployed. Repealing the ban on transgender service in 2010 left what was essentially a policy vacuum, and gradually medical regulations have filled that void. Medicalized understandings of gender dysphoria (as distinct from transgender identity) had the potential to support transgender personnel through health benefits not available to civilian Australians. Yet as policies evolved, the ADF developed directives around particular treatments for gender dysphoria, adopting subjective time frames and medical downgrades and restricting transition options. So while ADF rhetoric has emphasized diversity and transgender (among LGBTI) inclusion within the ADF, gradually the medicalized approach to transgenderism has disempowered and restricted transgender service members' opportunities.

Document Type

Journal Article

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