We first told you about his story when he was in the officers course, but now it’s official: 21-year-old Shachar is the Israeli army’s first out transgender officer.
“How can I explain it? For me, serving in the army and being recognized for who I really am by my fellow soldiers made me feel like a real man for the first time in my life. It made me feel like myself,” said Shachar, who asked to be quoted using his preferred pseudonym to protect his identity as an active member of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF).
At a time when most of the world’s militaries still officially ban gay and lesbian soldiers from serving, Shachar’s military service stands apart. Not only did he experience support from his unit and commanding officers, but his case prompted the Israeli military to fast-track new protocols now in place that range from tolerance training for senior officers to ensuring that the military would cover the cost of hormone treatments and sex reassignment surgery.
He is now speaking internationally, hoping his case can help transform the attitudes of militaries like the United States, which has embraced lesbian, gay, and bisexual soldiers but still will not allow trans soldiers to serve. While Shachar says he knows that Israel is accused of “pinkwashing” — or using its progressive stance toward the LGBT community to brush over human rights abuses toward Palestinians — for him and others interviewed by BuzzFeed News the positions taken by Israel’s military were an indication of a functional army, rather than a political talking point.