A transgender soldier is eagerly awaiting a Pentagon policy that she believes will repeal the Defense Department’s ban on transgender soldiers in the military.
Jennifer Peace, a 30-year-old resident of Spanaway, Washington, used to be a male intelligence officer in the Army. In 2014, after years of being uncomfortable in her skin, Peace decided to begin the process of transitioning into a woman.
Peace spent over $50,000 to complete the transition and legally changed her name and gender to reflect the new change.
Being in the military, Peace knew she would face some obstacles as a transgender soldier. She didn’t expect the current treatment she has been receiving from her superiors and peers.
Prior to her transition, she was considered a soldier with a very bright future. She graduated at the top or near the top of all her military intelligence courses. In one of her performance evaluations, her commanding officer wrote, “Capt. Peace is the best military intelligence officer I have served with in over 18 years of service.”
Since the transition, Peace doesn’t feel she commands the same level of respect she did when she was a man. Even though she is legally a woman, her peers were instructed to still refer to her as a man because the Army doesn’t recognize the fact that a person can change their gender.
In an interview with the Sun Herald, Peace said the high ranking officers that were supportive at first later put her through some psychological tests and medical evaluations. She said that an officer suggested that she quit the military.
Last week, Peace started a new assignment at Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s 7th Infantry Division. She expects to serve there for a year, but she is worried that she will be passed over for a promotion because she is transgender.
Despite the obstacles she has faced, Peace is optimistic about Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s effort to fully integrate the military. Carter already announced that the military won’t discharge a soldier because they are transgender, but he hasn’t announced any reforms on how the military will deal with the issue.
When Carter created the working group tasked with figuring how to integrate transgender military members, he said, “At a time when our troops have learned from experience that the most important qualification for service members should be whether they’re able and willing to do their job, our officers and enlisted personnel are faced with certain rules that tell them the opposite.”
Since the repeal of the Pentagon’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, transgender reforms have been happening very quickly. Transgender advocates believe the Defense Department will soon figure out how to integrate transgender people that want to serve their country.