While U.S. President Donald Trump announced that he would ban transgender people from serving in the U.S. military, the Israel Defense Forces allows and even boasts of the integration of transgender soldiers into army ranks. Not only that, the IDF even funds sex reassignment operations.
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The IDF says that at any given moment, dozens of transgender soldiers are serving. Since Israel has a compulsory draft, the army is required to provide medical services for all soldiers, and this includes financing sex reassignment operations when appropriate.
The army also provides other types of support to transgender soldiers. An officer with the rank of lieutenant colonel, who serves in the chief of staff’s advisory unit on gender issues, oversees this issue, and a staff of people under her is responsible for helping transgender individuals during their service.
Brig. Gen. Sharon Nir, the chief of staff’s advisor on gender issues, is quoted by the IDF as saying that “The IDF is considered one of the most advanced armies in the world when it comes to integrating the LGBT community, and this is no longer an issue at all in the army’s ranks.”
In recent months, the IDF’s transgender policy has sparked criticism from opponents, who are upset, inter alia, that the military funds reassignment and has allowed several transgender soldiers and officers to give interviews on transgender issues.
In response to America’s announcement on Wednesday, Col. (res.) Raz Sagi, who heads an organization called The IDF Fortitude Forum, urged the IDF to copy the American decision and not draft transgender individuals.
“The U.S. Army made a decision today that proves it’s an army which bases itself on the first military commandment – operational capability,” Sagi said. “The American army opted to continue being prepared for victory in battle rather than an organization which invests its time and money in equal but operationally mistaken integration.”
Liam Rubin, a former combat soldier who enlisted to the IDF in 2014, came out as transgender during army service. In a Facebook post, Liam said that the army refused granting a chest reconstruction surgery at first, but after petitioning the IDF's medical corps, a sex reassignment surgery was authorized.
"I'm a proud transgender who is even more proud to serve in the army, and I will continue the fight to raise awareness of the community and its difficulties," Liam wrote. "I do lectures and accompany people like me. Today there are 60 transgenders in the army and the number will continue to grow. Service is equal to everyone!"