Bridget Clinch, Sex-Change Soldier, Forces Australian Army To Re-Consider Transgender Policy

12/06/2010 10:20 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

An army captain's choice to undergo a sex change operation has forced Australia to re-consider what some have called a longtime ban on transgender soldiers.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Matthew Clinch will change his name to Bridget after undergoing gender reassignment surgery early next year. Clinch, a 31-year-old married father of two, wasn't the first soldier to express interest in becoming a woman. A 11-year army veteran, she still says she was shocked when initially told by her commander last year that she would not be able to come to work dressed as a woman because of a long-standing military policy, which classifies those undergoing a sex change operation as unsuitable for service "because of the need for ongoing treatment and/or the presence of a psychiatric disorder.''

"I'm in uniform, with clippered hair, just thinking, 'What the hell?' This shouldn't be that big a deal. It's 2010, this is Australia,'' Clinch told the Herald. "There is no difference between what I can do and what any other females can do once I've finished all of my treatment."

Major General Craig Orme, head of defense personnel, said there had never been an official ban on transgender soldiers in the ranks, and noted the army's initial decision not to allow Clinch to serve was based solely on the fact that her medical treatment was set to take two years.

"That decision was appealed and we reviewed the decision and we changed our position to say in this case, based on the circumstances presented, that the decision should be revoked and that the member should continue to serve," he was quoted as saying last month in an earlier Herald article.

Though she remains in the army, Bridget Clinch's struggle is far from over. In order to be legally recognized as a woman, Clinch will have to divorce her wife Tammy before the operation next year. Clinch's surgery is expected to cost around $10,000 and will be partly covered by the Australian defense force's medical care fund, a decision which has sparked ire among many taxpayers.

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