Shalom Life | April 19, 2015

IDF Embraces LGBT Recruits

After consultation with LGBT center, army announces new policy to assist transgender teens, starting from first draft notice

By: Yoav Zitun

Published: December 26th, 2014 in News » Israel

The IDF decided to support and assist transgender soldiers, starting from their first draft notice at age of 16, according to a Thursday report in the official magazine of the armed forces, Bamahane.

The decision was taken after consultation at the Personnel Directorate, led by the Women's Affairs Advisor to the IDF Chief of Staff Brig. Gen. Rachel Tevet-Wiesel. The purpose of the new policy is to offer help throughout the personal process which the soldier has chosen to undertake, whether it is partial or full sex change, requiring sex reassignment surgery.

The IDF has five acknowledged transgender soldiers in active duty; the military hopes to open the door to any potential recruits who have avoided enlistment. Until now, transgender soldiers were forced to turn to their commander to receive individual care and insist on their rights – like exchanging uniform to the new sex, hormone therapy, and fitting sleeping quarters.

Rainbow flag in IDF dormitory

Rainbow flag in IDF dormitory

The head of the Medical Corps' Mental Health Division, Major Iris Wagman, explained that "we have bridged the gap between the military and the LGBT population, specifically its transgender members."

Wagman added that "last year the army's mental health division contacted the Israeli Center for Human Sexuality & Gender Identity, with the aim of raising awareness in the IDF of the transgender community. Under the framework of the new policy and the IDF's cooperation with the civilian center, the military psychologists at the recruitment centers receive an update from the center ahead of the recruit's arrival."

Transgender teens, which have not started the sex change process or are interested, will be recruited according to their biological sex, but immediately upon enlistment will receive support and assistance with the process as mentioned beforehand, and will also be addressed according to the gender they prefer.

The IDF is considered among the most progressive of world armies in its treatment of LGBT soldiers, and its officials have lectured about the topic in front of their NATO and European counterparts.

The army plans to hold meetings in a few months between relevant officials and LGBT professionals to advance the agenda. "It was important to me to serve and I knew that I would do what it took to become an officer," said Second Lieutenant Shahar – an officer who began officer school as a female cadet but finished the sex change before graduation.

"I lowered my expectations, I told myself 'they'll probably speak to me like a girl and I won't shower for a week'; I wouldn't wear the female uniform. I managed to cancel negative remarks on my behavior which prevented me from starting officer school," recalls Shahar.

"My team commander in the course did everything she could to make sure I succeeded."

Reprinted with permission from Ynet News

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