Openly trans soldier serving in US Army despite ban

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

A transgender soldier has spoken up about continuing to serve in the US military – despite a blanket ban on trans service personnel.

Sergeant Shane Ortega, who serves in the US Army’s 25th Infantry Division, gave an interview to the Washington Post in which he opened up about being transgender.

Lesbian, gay and bisexual soldiers have been able to serve openly since Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was repealed in 2011 – but trans people remain actively banned by health regulations put in place in the 1970s, which describes trans people as having “psychosexual conditions”.

Sgt. Ortega’s disclosure that he is still serving in the military is surprising given that transgender people are still routinely dismissed from the military due to their gender identity, with a cryptographic technician discharged from the Navy last year, after old records were discovered referring to him as female.

The soldier – who has served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan – said: “My commitment to serving this country runs deep.

“I have been a team and squad leader, a crew chief, and a machine gun section chief. I have been on over 400 combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and fought side-by-side in foxholes and remote operating bases.

“As I fight for my country in foreign lands, all I want it is to be able to serve openly while keeping the job that I love.

“I will continue to fight this fight for the 700,000 transgender veterans that have gone before me who were forced to choose between serving their country and being true to who they are.”


A spokesperson for the American Civil Liberties Union said: “Although the Army appears to have temporarily halted the process of kicking trans people out, the policy still declares that they are unfit.

“That puts service members and their commanders in an untenable situation. It’s the policy itself that’s interfering with the military’s ability to do the job, not service members like Shane.”

A year ago, former US Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders co-authored a report recommended an end to the blanket ban on trans people serving in the military, which she said was made on outdated medical grounds.