What the U.S. Is Learning From How Israel Treats Transgender Soldiers

On June 30, the U.S. military announced it would accept transgender soldiers and it has been looking at the experience of other armies for guidance. The Israeli Defense Forces is one of them.

Transgender Israeli IDF soldier, Amy, poses for photos in a studio in Tel Aviv, Israel, Thursday, July 21, 2016. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Amy always knew she was a girl in a boy’s body, as she always knew she would serve in the army. She grew up in a religious family in Israel and attended a school that prepared students to enter the air force. But after coming out to her family, whose reactions ranged from fear to denial and rejection, she wasn’t sure if and how the military would accept her.

Amy, who preferred not to use her real name for this story, decided not to go into the air force, which she felt might be too “macho” and less welcoming to a transgender woman. Instead she enlisted in Caracal, a co-ed combat unit, which is tasked with patrolling Israel’s border with Egypt. To Amy’s surprise, the army was more than just accepting.

“They were empowering,” she says of her fellow soldiers and commanders. “The girls and guys in my platoon were so sweet and supportive, and all the staff tried to make it as smooth as possible. I didn’t even notice.”

From the start, they treated her as female, addressing her in female pronouns, giving her a female uniform, and allowing her to keep her long wavy hair (male soldiers must keep their hair short). Amy was permitted to sleep in the women’s sleeping quarters, and received permission to shower separately. The army also pays for her hormone treatments, just as they cover the medical needs of any soldier.

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