Breaking the ice: Opening channels that enable transgender members to serve

Just as we have been breaking ice for years, the Coast Guard is also helping to break barriers in diversity and inclusion. The Coast Guard celebrated Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) pride month in June and one key part of this was highlighting the strides we are making in diversity and inclusion. This is the first year that the Coast Guard was able to celebrate the “T” in LGBT for our military members.

As we come upon the one-year anniversary of the release of ALCOAST 253/16, which authorizes transgender members to serve openly, it is important to pause and reflect on how far our service has come regarding the inclusion of the LGBT community.

Over the course of the past year, we released Military Transgender Service Policy, COMDTINST M1000.13, which outlines the policies and standards for Coast Guard military transgender members. We also stood up the Service Central Coordination Cell (SCCC). The SCCC was established to assist commanders and service members alike. The SCCC has personnel, legal, and healthcare experts available to answer questions for transgender members and their commands. The SCCC may be contacted via email at SCCC@uscg.mil.

We have developed a briefing on the new policy ensuring all employees of the Coast Guard are aware of it and related procedures regarding transgender members. This briefing is not only to familiarize all members with the transgender policy, but it is also intended to spark discussion around the topic. Through this dialogue, members are able to learn the practical implementation of the policy.

Finally, we appreciate those transgender members who were among the first to openly serve in the Coast Guard. It is through their courage and open dialogue that we are learning as a service. It is through their experiences that we are able to further grow into a more inclusive organization where diversity is continually welcomed and valued.

“We are proud of our service, our culture, and our traditions,” says Rear Adm. William G. Kelly, assistant commandant for Human Resources. “It is through our shipmate’s willingness to serve, and the way we treat each other each and every day that we find our resiliency to face the challenges of our mission.”

Just as an ice breaker’s mission is to open a channel for vessel traffic, and to better serve our changing diverse population, we, too, are opening channels that enable openly transgender members to serve. However, breaking the ice and breaking barriers is just the beginning; we need to continue to keep that channel open. It is through this respectful communication that we will be able to help continue to provide an inclusive work environment.

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