The Department of Defense is planning to review its policy of banning transgender service members, and the change can’t come soon enough for Sgt. Shane Ortega.
Ortega, a helicopter crew chief who has served in the military for 10 years, is transgender. Although he has been openly living as a man for half of that time, under current military rules he must still be addressed as a female officer and is only allowed to wear women’s uniforms. Ortega is a competitive bodybuilder and only a size 20 women's uniform, the largest size of women's uniforms the military offers, can fit his biceps and neck.
"I look ridiculous," Ortega told ABC News.
Ortega’s service record was so outstanding, he became the army’s first transgender sergeant, Latina Magazine reported. Ortega hopes the Department of Defense’s policy review, which is similar to the one that preceded the repeal of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy for gay members of the military, will mean he’ll be allowed to wear a man’s uniform while serving.
"Throughout this time, transgender men and women in uniform have been there with us, even as they often had to serve in silence alongside their fellow comrades in arms," said Secretary of Defense Ash Carter in his statement about the upcoming policy review. "The Defense Department's current regulations regarding transgender service members are outdated and are causing uncertainty that distracts commanders from our core missions."
Ortega is excited about the possible change.
"I'm pumped up," he said. "At the same time I know this is a small step forward and there's so much more to do.”
Ortega said he knows a transgender woman who is afraid to come out as she is still serving in an all-male unit. She is just one of an estimated 15,500 transgender soldiers serving in the military.
Image via Shane Ortega/Instagram