Jacob Eleazer, a 28-year-old TAC (Teach, Assess, Council) officer, learned he was up for promotion this December. For seven years, he’d been an exemplary soldier, rising to the rank of first lieutenant, and now on his way to captain. But there was a problem. Within the confines of his military training center, in western Kentucky, Eleazer still went by his birth name, which was female.
Outside his Army base, Eleazer lived as a man, one of 15,450 military personnel who consider themselves transgender, according to a recently released study, but don’t dare come out to their fellow soldiers and risk jeopardizing their careers. “My colleagues just assumed I was a really butch lesbian,” says Eleazer, who has broad shoulders, close-cropped hair and a jutting chin.
Like Chelsea Manning, the former Army private who gave classified documents to WikiLeaks when she was known as Bradley Manning, Eleazer hadn’t identified with his gender since puberty. Yet he believed that undergoing any kind of anatomical change was unrealistic–too many complications–and so for years he lived as a lesbian. But in 2011 he decided he couldn’t abide the dissonance any longer. He soon came out to his friends and family, who were supportive, and for the last two years, he has lived as Jacob. But he only recently resolved to surgically modify his gender.