28 December 2014

Israel To Help Transgender Recruits

Israeli has what may well be the tightest conscription laws in the world.  Essentially, every Israeli aged 18 and up is subject to be drafted into the Armed Forces unless he or she can prove a physical or mental disability or is a non-Druze Arab citizen.  Young Israelis typically receive their first draft notice at age 16.

(About twenty years ago, a co-worker of mine who was born in Israel but came to the US at age two went back to visit relatives.  He was just shy of 35 years old.  While waiting to board his flight back to New York, Israeli military police pulled him aside and said that he had to fulfill his requirement of military service.   Fortunately, he was able to prove that he was a US, not an Israeli, citizen.  Still, he nearly missed his flight.)

I won't get into a discussion of Israeli military policies:  That would take up this blog, and a few others!  However, I find it interesting that Israel was one of the first countries to allow gays and lesbians and, later, transgenders, to serve openly in the military.  And now the Israeli Defense Force is taking a step that may well be unprecedented anywhere in the world:  It has adopted a policy aimed, not only at helping transgenders already in the IDF, but also to assist draftees in their gender transitions from the time they receive their first draft notice.

Yes, you read that right:  The IDF will help draftees transition, fully or partially, upon entering the military service.  Teenagers who have not yet begun the process will be recruited according to the sex on their birth certificates but, upon enlisting, will receive assistance with everything they need for their transition--up to an including surgery--and will be addressed according to their preferred gender.

Now, some might say that the Israelis are making such a move out of necessity:  They live in a country about the size of New Jersey, there are about half as many of them as there are Jerseyites and the are surrounded by hostile countries whose populations far outnumber them.

Even if such is the case, the IDF is to be commended.  Probably more than in any other country in the world, military service means integration into society in Israel.  And allowing trans people to serve as the people they are is, in such an environment, a form of validation.

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