Soldier discharged by South Korean military for transitioning pleads with army to take her back
The first openly trans soldier in South Korea has pleaded with the army to take her back, after she was discharged for transitioning.
Trans people currently are barred from signing up for the military in South Korea, but a loophole means that there are no regulations on soldiers who come out as trans while serving.
Byun Hee-soo, a tank driver, was discharged this week by a military panel for undergoing gender confirmation surgery.
In a press conference after the decision was announced, Byun asked military leaders to reconsider and let her serve as a female soldier.
She said that being a soldier was her childhood dream, and she wants to serve at the tense border with North Korea.
“Regardless of my sexual identity, I’d like to show everyone that I can become one of the great soldiers who protect this country,” Byun said, holding back tears.
“Please give me that chance.”
Human rights groups also urged the military to allow the trans woman to continue serving.
The Centre for Military Human Rights Korea (CMHRK) said that the trans soldier is a tank officer and said she had undergone hormone treatment before she had gender confirmation surgery last year.
“We strongly urge the South Korean military not to discharge this officer so that she can continue to serve as a female officer,” CMHRK said.
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“It is now time for the South Korean military to set up guidelines and regulations about transgender people.
“We strongly urge the South Korean military not to discharge this officer so that she can continue to serve as a female officer.”
Gay people also face penalties in the South Korea military.
The South Korean military is already a hostile place for LGBT+ people. Sexual orientation is not considered a valid reason to be exempt from serving, and members of the military who have gay sex can face up to two years in prison.
LGBT+ rights in South Korea generally lag behind other countries. There is no legal recognition of same-sex relationships, and while transgender people are allowed to legally transition, they can only do so when they turn 20.
The news comes after Donald Trump’s ban on transgender people in the US military came into force last year. The president first announced the measure on Twitter in 2017. The discriminatory law subsequently faced a number of failed legal challenges.