TV & Radio
Thai military lifts transgender restriction
Christopher Curtis, PlanetOut Network
Wednesday, August 10, 2005 / 04:05 PM
SUMMARY: Transgender recruits can now serve in Thailand's military after a law that declared transgender citizens suffer from a mental disorder was amended.
Transgender recruits can now serve in Thailand's military after the military amended a law that declared transgender citizens suffer from a mental disorder.
"The existing conscription law has been promulgated since 1954, when there were few homosexuals and transvestites, but society is changing very fast, so the army is in the process of amending the law and omitting those words from the certificate," said Lt. Gen. Arthorn Lohitkul, director general of the Army Reserve Command in a quote published by the Associated Press (AP).
All men in Thailand are required by law to register to serve in the military as conscript soldiers when they turn 20. Recruits are randomly selected, but several transgender recruits are turned away, with certificates that claim they were turned away "due to mental disorder."
Parinya Charoenphol, a celebrity Thai-style kickboxer who underwent surgery to become a woman, told a local television station, "The words 'mental disorder' marked on the certificate seriously affects our lives."
Gay rights activist Natee Theerarojnaphongm, who launched the campaign to omit the words from the conscript exemption, added, "No employer wants to hire anyone with a record of mental disorder to work in his company." Theerarojnaphongm added people saddled with the "mental disorder" description had difficulties making certain legal arrangements.
Steve Ralls, spokesman for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network in Washington, D.C., praised the move. "The Thai military is only among the latest who are far ahead of the United States in recognizing that sexuality and gender identity have zero impact in having someone doing their job. The United States should follow Thailand's example. It's a matter of national security."
Ralls pointed out that the military in both Canada and Sweden did not ban transgender personnel. "All of the original NATO countries and all member nations of the European Union and Japan don't ban gay and lesbian soldiers," Ralls said.
"Russia has no exclusive ban, one way or the other," Ralls added.
SLDN has pointed out that allowing LGBT soldiers to serve openly could help solve America's military recruiting crisis.
In July Lt. Gen. Franklin L. Hagenbeck, the Army's top personnel officer, predicted in testimony before Congress that the Army would miss its recruiting goal for the year, something that has not happened since 1999.
SLDN believes the U.S. military could attract as many as 41,000 new recruits by lifting its "don't ask, don't tell" ban on LGBT personnel.
Thailand OKs Gay, Transsexual Soldiers