Sergeant Shane Ortega began his transition four years ago while serving in the U.S. Army.
Prior to enlisting, Ortega served two tours with the U.S. Marine Corps. However, it was until Ortega decided to join the Army that he felt it was time to live his life as an openly transgender man.
Under the guidance of his own doctor and a military physician, Ortega underwent hormone therapy while simultaneously fulfilling his duties.
His transition presented a bit of a challenge for the Army. Although he had been living full-time as a man since 2001 and had taken all of the governmental steps to be recognized as such, the Army has had a difficult time processing his identity.
The Army’s current views on transgender-identified people are complicated. Like all American military services, the Army still has provisions on the books that automatically label openly trans people from enlisting.
It typically assumes that all trans-people suffer from gender dysphoria, a form of mental anxiety associated with being profoundly at odds with one’s biological gender. Gender dysphoria is considered an adequate reason for dismissing officers, but Ortega has been repeatedly deemed not to suffer from the disorder by Army doctors.
Ortega’s been able to continue his service, but the Army’s views on his gender have led to a number of odd and ultimately discriminatory decisions about just how he can service. Technically speaking the Army consider Ortega to be a woman despite his assertions to the contrary. Following a routine physical it was determined that the amount of testosterone in Ortega’s bloodstream was abnormally high–a result of his hormone treatment. He was subsequently barred from his duties as a helicopter crew chief.
Rather than remain stuck in procedural limbo Ortega has taken the proactive route and is now agitating for the Department of Defense to make make its decision about his ability to serve clear. In recent months he has become more open about his fight for recognition within the military in hopes of demonstrating that trans people can be just as able and committed to the service as their cis counterparts.
In an interview with the Washington Post, Ortega told the publication
“One thing my father always said was, ‘Be the change you want to see in the world,’ I definitely wanted to be that change.”
As of February, Pentagon spokesman Nate Christensen informed Ortega that the Department of Defense is actively reviewing it’s policies and that the potential policy revision could help future trans service members.
There’s no exact time frame as to when the review will be completed nor has there been word as to whether the review will get into the Department of Defense’s treatment of trans people.
Until the review is complete, Ortega isn’t sure whether he has a future with the Army.
“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,” Ortega explained in a public statement. “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.”
We salute you, Sergeant Ortega. Keep fighting to be who you are!