The Army should not “directly exclude” transgender soldiers from fighting in close combat roles in the British infantry, a senior officer has said.
Lt Gen Andrew Gregory told the Pink News that men who had transitioned to women could be eligible for infantry roles – but he said such a situation had so far not “come up”.
He said it would be a “very interesting test case” if the situation did arise.
A review is under way on the current ban on women in close combat roles.
Currently women can serve on the front line, but not where the primary aim is to “close with and kill the enemy”.
But Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, speaking in December, said he hoped to “open up combat roles to women” in 2016.
Gen Gregory – who as chief of defence personnel is in charge of diversity and inclusivity – said men who had transitioned to women could already be able to serve in combat roles.
“We do not yet have any female transgender people serving in the infantry. We haven’t had to address it because we haven’t had the issue come up,” he said.
“It would be a very interesting test case if it did come up. If somebody – birth gender male – who physically has all the physical strength and durability but had transitioned, they might well be able.
“What we continue to do, as we better understand these things, is to look at our policy. That’s my response – to make sure as far as possible they are inclusive. It’s an interesting question.”
He said the Army had “absolutely got to tap all sections of society”.
But he highlighted greater potential difficulty in accepting transgender people who identified as women to roles such as in the infantry.
“I think we would find it difficult to accommodate them in those areas where at the moment we don’t have open access to females,” he said.
“I don’t know quite what we’d do about accommodation and the practicalities around that – I’d have to think about it.
“There might not be very many people, but we shouldn’t directly exclude them.”
BBC defence correspondent Jonathan Beale said that with the ban on homosexuals serving in the military “long gone” there appeared to now be a “new openness” to female transgender soldiers joining the infantry.
However, our correspondent said: “There could be obstacles if it was the other way around. Women are currently barred from the infantry.
“The MoD is reviewing that decision but has highlighted important physiological differences between a woman and a man. For now the Army’s efforts to be inclusive appear to be confusing.”
Source: BBC News http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-33456404