The Australian Defence Force has announced it has dropped its policy covering transgendered persons in the defence forces with a view to updating it.

The ADF’s Peoples Strategies and Policy Group cancelled the policy on June 1, stating that it was “out of date”.

Until a replacement policy is available, commanders and managers have been instructed to manage transgender personnel in accordance with the ADF’s Equity and Diversity policy and existing defence medical review provisions.

An ADF spokesman told Sydney Star Observer that, contrary to reports, there had not been a ban on transgendered persons serving in the defence forces.

“The cancellation of the policy in question did not reverse a ban on transgender personnel in the Australian Defence Force as a ‘ban’ did not exist. The previous policy did provide guidance on the recruitment and continued employment of members at the various stages of gender reassignment,” the spokesman said.

“Due to the complexities of the subject it was more prudent to cancel the existing policy and implement interim arrangements until such time as a full review could be completed.”

The spokesman said a signal released by Defence Force chief Angus Houston last Monday had been to ensure “the information reaches the widest possible Defence audience”.

Sydney Star Observer understands that in March the ADF tried to discharge a transgendered person on the grounds that gender identity disorder was listed as a psychiatric disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

The person challenged the discharge and made a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission.

An ADF internal review withdrew the discharge in July but the matter is ongoing with the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Reacting to the policy review, the Gender Centre’s Catherine Cummings said it was “about time”.

“Transgendered people have been acceptable in armed forces elsewhere, for example in Britain, for a number of years,” Cummings said.

“I can’t see any reason why transgendered people should be treated any differently in the armed forces than they are in civilian life.”

Sex And Gender Education’s Dr Tracie O’Keefe welcomed the policy review but feared the ADF’s definition of transgender excluded non-transsexuals.

“I think any policy change that allows intersex and sex and gender diverse people to take part in the whole of society is a good thing but it has to be a very wide philosophical perspective and not just putting transsexuals up as an exclusive group,” O’Keefe said.

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