Local veteran weighs in on the Pentagon lifting the ban on transgender troops

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ)-Navy vet Alison Schaffer used to serve her country as a man by the name of Thomas.

She points to her old military ID and says, “Of course as you can see I wasn’t very happy back then. That totally is not me.”

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About three years ago she came out as a woman, and has since medically transitioned to what she says is her true self.

“This is the present day ID which is me and I’m much happier, the military doesn’t let you smile so I’m sorry I wasn’t able to smile in that picture.”

But during her ten years in the navy as a ship’s serviceman, like many she had to keep her identity under-wraps. But that age of secrecy is now over.

At a press conference yesterday Defense Secretary Ash Carter says, “…otherwise qualified service members can no longer be voluntarily separated, discharged, or denied re-enlistment or continuation of service just for being transgender.”

ABC 36’s Diane Gerstenfeld asked Schaffer, “Did you ever think a time like this was going to come?”

She says, “Well there have been people of different genders in the military ever since World War II that I know of.”

And she says it’s a longtime coming. According to Secretary Carter at least 18 countries allow transgender troops to serve openly.

According to RAND, a non-profit that does research for the military, as many as 7,000 active duty service members are transgender, and 4000 in the Reserves.

Schaffer points to a sticker on her purse that says “Veteran I Served” and says, “Well I found the sticker at the VA and I slapped the sticker on there.”

And now it’s something that Alison and the military can proudly stand behind.

Secretary Carter says, “Because it’s the right thing to do. And it’s another step to ensuring that we continue to recruit and retain the most qualified people. And good people are key to the best military in the world.”

Schaffer says, “It made me feel really good because now people can finally there true genders. They can now live as themselves.”

The new policy changes will be phased in over a year. But by the October 1st, all transgender troops will be able to access medical care and have the option to change their gender identification with the Pentagon.