Pentagon Acting on Policy to Disqualify Transgender Recruits with Gender Dysphoria

New recruits raise their hands as they take an oath outside the renovated Times Square Military Recruiting Station in New York on November 10, 2017.  / AFP PHOTO / Jewel SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty
KRISTINA WONG

The Pentagon is moving forward on its new transgender policy, after a court lifted an injunction on the matter last week.

The policy would grandfather in all transgender troops, including those with transgender dysphoria, currently serving or those who have signed contracts by April 12 under the previous policy, but not allow new recruits diagnosed with transgender dysphoria to serve unless they are deemed stable for 36 months and willing to serve in their biological sex.

Transgender recruits who have not been diagnosed with gender dysphoria would be able to serve in their biological sex. Those later diagnosed with gender dysphoria or who seek medical transition to another sex would likely be referred for disability evaluation or administrative separation from the military.

Current transgender troops who are diagnosed with gender dysphoria after April 12 will be subject to the new policy.

The previous policy, implemented in 2016, allowed troops to serve in their preferred sex after completing transition treatment. New recruits diagnosed with gender dysphoria but stable for 18 months could serve in either their biological or preferred sex. New recruits could also have undergone transition and served in their preferred sex, if they were stable for 18 months.

Those most affected by the new policy will be new recruits who are diagnosed with gender dysphoria. Those who have undergone or seek transition treatment would be disqualified.

Gender dysphoria is defined as a medical condition where one has “marked incongruence between one’s experienced/expressed gender and assigned gender. Associated with clinically significant distress and impairment of functioning.”

Defense officials speaking to reporters on background in media conference call rejected that the new policy is a ban.

“This is not a ban on transgender individuals serving in the military. In fact, the policy actually prohibits the denial of accession or involuntary separation solely on the basis of gender identity, and it ensures equal application of military standard regardless of gender identity,” said one defense official.

“Merely self-identifying as a transgender individual has no practical military consequence. We realize that not all transgender individuals have gender dysphoria,” the official added. “DOD values the service of all individuals who can meet our standards.”

The military services are being given 30 days to implement the new policy, giving some troops that window of time to seek gender transition treatment. The new policy can also ben waived by service secretaries on a case-by-case basis.

It is not clear whether a recruit who has gender dysphoria, but no medical diagnosis, would be able to enlist. Defense officials told reporters on Wednesday that those with gender dysphoria would likely seek some sort of treatment or exhibit signs of gender dysphoria, suggesting that it would be difficult to hide.

Critics slammed the new policy as bringing back “don’t ask, don’t tell” — the Clinton-era policy that required gay service members to be quiet about their sexual preferences.

Director of the Palm Center Aaron Belkin said in a statement Tuesday, “The Trump administration is determined to bring back ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ a policy that forced service members to choose between serving their country and telling the truth about who they were.”

According to the Palm Center, there are an estimated 14,700 troops on active duty and reserve who are transgender. Officials believe approximately 1,000 of them have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria and are currently serving. Since 2016, the year the previous policy was put into place, the Pentagon has spent about $8 million on transgender care.

Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis issued the new policy last February, but it had been prevented from being implemented by several challenges in federal court cases.

 

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