Advice provided is general in nature and does not consider your personal circumstances. You should consider the advice in the context of your personal circumstances, or seek professional advice before deciding on any course of action.
- General Information
- Transition in Defence
- Joining Defence
- Guidance for Commanders & Managers
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Contacts & Resources
Many transgender and gender diverse (TGD) people are currently serving, or have previously served, in the Australian Defence Force (ADF). This page contains information designed to assist anybody who is interested in learning about serving in the ADF as a TGD person (for both those who are already in Defence, and those who are thinking about joining), and for commanders and managers of TGD personnel.
Everybody has a gender identity. If you are transgender it means that your gender identity does not align with the gender you were ‘assigned’ at birth, based on your biological sex characteristics. Transgender and/or gender diverse individuals may feel that other terminology best describes their identity; please visit our glossary for a further explanation of some of these terms.
The TGD community can be very private, so you may not know that there are people nearby that have many shared experiences with you! DEFGLIS can help you network with other TGD members in Defence. We run regular online meet-ups and have a private Facebook group where we catch up, ask questions and support each other.
We will do everything we can to provide peer support for you, and we will lean on community resources to provide you with what we can’t. So ask for help, look for guidance and above all, realise that you’re not alone. If you would like to access peer support resources please contact the DEFGLIS TGD representative at email@example.com.
Defence is required to abide by national anti-discrimination and privacy law, including the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Clth) and the Privacy Act 1988 (Clth). TGD personnel are able to serve in the ADF, subject to the same requirements of all other serving members. Defence has produced a number of guidelines to assist serving personnel, commanders and managers with understanding the process of gender transition within Defence. For example, the Air Force Transgender and Gender Affirmation Guide contains information that is specific for RAAF personnel. If you are a serving member and would like to be provided with specific links to the relevant policy and guidance for your service and position, please contact the DEFGLIS TGD representative at firstname.lastname@example.org.
DEFGLIS uses the ‘3R’ Model to understand the transition process of TGD individuals. The three phases in this model are (1) realisation, (2) realignment, and (3) resolution. This model reflects that the process of gender transition is different for everybody, and focuses on how to reach the final goal of resolution wherein an individual is comfortable with their gender identity and presentation.
Realising that you may be transgender or gender diverse can be an overwhelming experience, but there is nothing wrong with wanting to be yourself. It’s completely okay to seek more information if you feel that your gender identity may be not align with your ‘biological sex’.
Many (though not all) TGD people experience gender dysphoria, which is an intense feeling of discomfort with the difference between their gender identity and their gender assigned at birth based on biological sex characteristics. You may be experiencing troubling thoughts and feelings related to gender, or finding that confusion about your gender identity occupies a lot of your thoughts during the day. If this applies to you, we encourage you to keep researching and seek support from community organisations, medical professionals or peers.
The realignment phase refers to making changes to your personal and professional life, as well as some medical or physical changes if you so choose, to affirm your gender identity. For TGD personnel in Defence, this process normally requires communication with medical professionals (including a Doctor/Medical Officer, Psychologist, and potentially other specialists), your chain of command, others in the workplace, and those in your personal life.
Realignment will look different for every single TGD person according to what their individual needs are. There is no right or wrong way to be transgender or gender diverse, and there is no right or wrong way to transition.
Social affirmation within the realignment phase refers to changes in both your personal and professional life that affirm your gender identity and are not medical in nature. This can include, but is not limited to:
- “Coming out” to friends, family, colleagues, supervisors and subordinates
- Adopting a different gender presentation through your hairstyle, grooming, clothes and/or uniforms
- Changing the pronouns (e.g. she/he/they), salutations (e.g. Sir/Ma’am) and honorifics (e.g. Mr/Ms/Mx) that you would like other people to use when referring to you
- Changing your name, informally and/or legally
- Changing your gender/sex marker on legal documentation and in HR/ICT systems
- Using accommodation and ablutions facilities that best match your gender identity
We find that open and honest conversations are a great way to start, but it’s not necessary to explain every part of your life story to every member of the workplace! There are a range of different ways that you can start this process, and everybody will go through at a different rate. If you don’t know where to start, you can seek help from DEFGLIS, or develop a plan of action with your supervisor to decide how the workplace will play a part in your journey. This can help to provide a sense of stability and control for yourself, and empower your superiors and workmates to also affirm your gender identity.
Medical affirmation within the realignment phase refers to medical treatments or procedures that TGD people may choose to undergo to affirm their gender identity. These might include hormonal or surgical treatments, and will vary significantly depending on the person and the level of gender dysphoria that they are experiencing. Undergoing medical transition in Defence does not necessarily mean you will be MEC-downgraded, temporarily or permanently. Deployability depends on a variety of factors, but there are many current-serving TGD members who have deployment into warlike and non-warlike environments after transitioning.
Defence has been providing some medical treatments for personnel diagnosed with Gender Dysphoria since 2009. All TGD Defence members can also expect to be provided with the same standard of healthcare delivery for non-gender related aspects of their health as all other serving members. If you are a serving member and would like to be provided with specific links to TGD healthcare policy in the ADF, please contact the DEFGLIS TGD representative at email@example.com.
If you want to speak with a medical professional, we recommend that you make an appointment to see a Doctor or Psychologist to discuss your questions about gender identity in the first instance, rather than just turning up to sick parade. If you are not satisfied with the response that you are given, don’t stop – seek further support. Not all healthcare providers within Defence are currently trained or experienced in providing transition-related care for members with gender dysphoria. There are a number of current-serving DEFGLIS members who have undergone transition, and may be able to provide you some peer support, recommendations for overcoming any challenges you face, and provide advice on how to seek a second opinion if you aren’t satisfied.
The ‘resolution’ phase refers to when the distress you were feeling about your gender identity has been relieved, and you are able to resume normal social and workplace interaction without hindrance. There may be ongoing medication requirements or occasional follow-ups with your treating MO or specialists, however, you should not need any more care than what would be expected for the general population.
Your lived experience is important and valuable, so throughout the entire process we encourage you to contribute to the community and support other members of DEFGLIS.
While some of the information above was developed by health professionals, as an organisation, we are not medical professionals and are unable to offer medical services. You should seek professional medical advice for your specific circumstances.
ADF Careers assesses each application to the ADF on a case-by-case basis to ensure consistency with inherent requirements of service and legislative requirements (including national anti-discrimination and privacy law). Every person is comprehensively assessed to identify anything that might affect their ability to perform requirements of service roles. You should also be aware that there can be times where your personal privacy is very limited, particularly during your initial training, on exercise or operations.
If you have an ongoing diagnosis of gender dysphoria that is ‘unresolved’, i.e. you are actively undergoing social or medical transition and still experiencing distress about your gender identity, you may not be found medically suitable to join the ADF at that time. This decision ultimately rests with the Medical Team at DFR, and they are the only people who can give you a definitive answer on whether you are currently able to join.
Non-binary people (both those who have this recognised in legal identity documentation, and those who may not) are able to serve within the ADF. However, when your application is being processed by DFR you may encounter some difficulties with having this recognised prior to entering Defence. There are administrative processes for having your gender recognised once you have joined that you will be able to access.
If you think you are being unfairly treated, or unfairly discriminated against through the recruiting process, please contact us, so we can assist with having your case reviewed by appropriate staff in ADF Careers and Joint Health Command. We will do our best to facilitate fair treatment and provide you with accurate information, but we are not able to advocate on your behalf.
Commanders, Mangers & Supervisors play a critical role in creating an inclusive environment for transgender and gender diverse (TGD) people, and supporting members who are transitioning or otherwise affirming their gender identity. You set the tone and culture of the unit, which can heavily influence the health and wellbeing of a TGD person in the workplace in positive or negative ways.
If you are a commander, manager or supervisor of a serving-member and would like to be provided with specific links to the relevant Defence policy and guidance for your service and position, please contact the DEFGLIS TGD representative at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The information available on all other tabs on this page provide an introduction to some of the key issues and administrative requirements that will arise if a member decides to transition. Please view the ‘Transition in Defence’ tab to see an explanation of the DEFGLIS ‘3R’ model of gender transition/affirmation.
The answers to these frequently asked questions are informed by our own experience and analysis of Defence policy. The advice provided in these FAQs is not official advice, it is not definitive, and should not be relied upon in isolation when applying to join the ADF or when making decisions about your gender identity and transition. If you have any questions directly related to the recruiting process for the Australian Defence Force, or your status as a candidate, contact ADF Careers.
Can transgender people join the ADF?
Any transgender or gender diverse (TGD) person may apply for enlistment or appointment into the ADF subject to the selection criteria applicable to all other applicants.
ADF Careers currently assesses each TGD applicant on a case-by-case basis to ensure consistency with inherent requirements of service and legislative requirements (including national anti-discrimination legislation). Every person is comprehensively assessed to identify their likely medical needs and the impacts of these medical needs on the individual’s ability to perform the requirements of service roles.
Can TGD people with untreated gender dysphoria join the ADF?
TGD people at any stage of their physical and/or social transition can apply to join the ADF. DEFGLIS recommends that all TGD people be open and honest in communicating information about their medical transition to DFR medical staff during the health screening components of the recruitment process. It is very beneficial to provide DFR medical staff with detailed reports from any of your treating practitioners (including GP, endocrinologist, surgeon(s), psychologist, psychiatrist etc.) as soon as possible during the recruitment process. These reports ideally will address questions such as; how has transition impacted your mental and/or physical health, what are any ongoing requirements for hormone replacement therapy, and how would your health be impacted if you could not access medication whilst deployed, are your hormone levels assessed as ‘stable’ by your treating doctor, do you still have unresolved/untreated dysphoria and what medical treatment is likely to be necessary to address this, whether you’ve made a full recovery from any surgeries, and are there any co-morbid mental health issues that relate to your transition. Every member of the ADF is assigned a Military Employment Category (MEC) that determines how that member can be employed. Untreated gender dysphoria may delay the provision of a MEC that is suitable for initial entry into the ADF.
How are TGD people protected in the ADF?
All TGD people are protected under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Clth) including the Sex Discrimination Amendment (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status) Act 2013 (Clth). These articles of legislation protect against discrimination due to sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status. Defence maintains the provisions of these Acts.
The Australian Human Rights Commission website explains that the Sex Discrimination Amendment Act 2013 guarantees freedom from both direct discrimination and indirect discrimination.
Direct discrimination is “treating another person less favourably on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity or intersex status, than someone without that attribute would be treated in the same or similar circumstances”.
Indirect discrimination is “imposing, or proposing to impose, a requirement, condition or practice that has, or is likely to disadvantage people with a particular sexual orientation or gender identity or intersex status, and which is not reasonable in the circumstances”.
What is the ADF culture towards transgender people?
The ADF does not tolerate unacceptable behaviour in any form, including discrimination, bullying or harassment. All members of the ADF, and ADF applicants, have the right to a safe environment that is free from unacceptable behaviour. The ADF provides for this through robust policy, education and training.
The ADF takes seriously any behaviour that is not commensurate with the Defence values of Service, Courage, Respect, Integrity and Excellence. All instances and complaints of unacceptable behaviour are taken seriously and dealt with promptly.
Within Defence policy, there are no specific protections for TGD persons; they are protected from unacceptable behaviour in the same way that cisgender people would be protected from unacceptable behaviour.
What are the requirements to have my sex and/or gender recognised on Defence official records?
Defence aligns with the Australian Government Guidelines on the Recognition of Sex and Gender. This means that the evidence requirements to recognise a person’s sex and/or gender is one of the following:
- a) a statement from a Registered Medical Practitioner or Registered Psychologist which specifies their gender,
- b) a valid Australian Government travel document, such as a valid passport, which specifies their gender, or
- c) a state or territory birth certificate, which specifies their gender. A document from a state or territory Registrar of Birth Deaths and Marriages recognising a change of sex and/or gender will also be seen as sufficient evidence.
TGD members are therefore not required to have changed the sex reflected on their birth certificate to be recognised as the correct gender.
Are TGD people referred to by their correct pronouns and salutations?
ADF personnel are commonly referred to by their rank and surname. In some circumstances, members may be referred to by their first name, or by an appropriate salutation (e.g., Sir/Ma’am for Commissioned Officers and Warrant Officers by subordinates). When pronouns are used, they are to align with individual’s preference, regardless of the member’s legal sex and/or gender that is recorded within civilian or Defence official records. Similarly, the salutations used to refer to a member should also align with their preference. If required, non-binary Commissioned Officers and Warrant Officers are able to request that subordinates address them by their rank and surname, rather than Sir/Ma’am.
In DEFGLIS’ experience, the onus is on the TGD person to advise their colleagues and their chain of command of their correct pronouns and/or salutations (if required). Sometimes, other Defence personnel may accidentally refer to a TGD person by the incorrect pronoun and/or salutation. A mature approach is required by both parties to address this. Deliberate and consistent use of pronouns and/or salutations that are inconsistent with a member’s wishes may constitute unacceptable behaviour. There are processes and systems in place to address unacceptable behaviour (see above).
Do I have to legally change my gender and/or sex before being referred to by the correct pronouns?
There is no requirement to change your civilian documentation (e.g., birth certificate or passport). If your gender is recorded correctly in Defence official records (with one of the requirements explained above), then you should be referred to by your correct pronouns.
In DEFGLIS’ experience, the onus is on the TGD person to advise their colleagues and their chain of command of their correct pronouns and/or salutations (if required). The advice given to ADF leaders is that if they are unsure of a member’s pronouns, it is always best to ask, and then use, the terms that are preferred by that member.
What healthcare is provided to TGD people in the ADF?
The maintenance of ADF capability is the ultimate aim of the medical support that is provided to all ADF members, including TGD people. Health care provided by Defence associated with medical transition will differ depending on the circumstances of the case, procedures undertaken and medical needs. Defence provides options for health screening, mental health support and some treatments, but not all treatment options sought by a transitioning member will be financially provided for by Defence.
Can TGD personnel within the ADF people be deployed?
TGD personnel within the ADF have been deployed overseas on warlike and non-warlike operations. ADF personnel undergoing active gender-affirming treatment (through psychological counselling, hormone treatment and/or surgical treatment) may be non-deployable for a period of time. This is to enable access to appropriate care and monitoring, stabilisation and post-operative recovery time. The duration of non-deployability will be different in each case. There are, however, many other medical procedures and treatments that do not automatically result in a change to the individual’s MEC or their deployability.
Depending on the location and duration of a deployment, TGD members should be aware of the prevailing attitudes and laws regarding transgender people in the respective country. More advice on this can be found on the Australian Government’s Smart Traveller website.
During the ADF recruitment process, I was determined to be Medical Class 4 – medically unfit for enlistment. Can I appeal this decision?
If you have been determined as Medical Class 4 and do not agree with the decision, you have the right of appeal. You will need to provide your reasons in writing as to why you consider the decision to be incorrect, and provide supporting documentation with regards to your medical condition/fitness from appropriate medical practitioners (such as GP, endocrinologist, surgeon(s), psychologist, psychiatrist etc.). If you have been determined as Medical Class 4 due to reasons connected with your gender identity and/or gender dysphoria, these reports should address the specific concerns identified by DFR.
The medical staff at your Defence Force Recruiting Centre (DFRC) will forward, on your behalf, your appeal together with your medical records to the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) at Headquarters ADF Careers n Canberra for review and decision. The outcome of the appeal will be formally advised to the DFRC Medical Section who in turn will notify you.
If your appeal is unsuccessful you will also be advised by a Medical Officer in writing as to the reason.
How are TGD ADF personnel required to dress and groom?
ADF personnel are required to dress and groom in accordance with the dress policy of their respective service – Army, Navy or Air Force. Most orders of dress/uniform have gender neutral options, and where available, all members are permitted to wear gender neutral uniforms. Depending on the service, only members who are recognised in Defence official records as female may adhere to female dress and grooming standards (such as wearing of skirts or dresses, long hair and make-up).
Upon enlistment, individuals are issued with a number of uniforms. Some articles of uniform are gender-specific (male or female). If there is not a gender-neutral variant, the member will be required to dress in accordance with the gender reflected in Defence official records.
If a member is non-binary and/or gender diverse, and this is reflected in Defence official records, it is up to the member to determine whether they will adhere to male or female dress & bearing standards. In most instances, the merging of male and female dress standards is not permitted.
Individuals may be entitled to a re-issue of uniform in the event that their officially-recorded gender changes.
How are physical fitness standards determined for TGD ADF personnel?
Tests of general fitness are relative to an individual’s age and gender that is recorded within Defence official records. For members who are non-binary, gender diverse or in the early stages of medical transition, consultation between the member, their chain of command and medical staff staff is conducted to determine the most appropriate physical standard for the member.
I am a TGD person and in a relationship. Will Defence recognise my relationship?
All ADF personnel seeking recognition of an interdependent partnership, and access to the associated entitlements, must apply to have their partner or spouse recognised by Defence. Paperwork will need to be supplied to confirm that the relationship exists. This could include a marriage or registration certificate, a written statement, or, any other document that may confirm the relationship. For members in a de facto relationship, Defence has adopted the definition of a de facto relationship from the Acts Interpretation Act 1901 (Clth) which stipulates that a member must live with their partner on a genuine domestic basis to qualify as being in a de facto relationship.
If an ADF member’s relationship is formally recognised, the serving member may also apply to have their partner recognised as a dependent.
If you are feeling isolated, DEFGLIS provides you with access to the network of Defence personnel and their families who are all around Australia. Wherever you are, you belong to the community and we’ll always be here for you when you need us. Sign up to be a member to gain access to the network.
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