President Donald Trump recently released his policy directive regarding the continuing service of transgender troops in the U.S. military.
Under recommendations from Secretary of Defense James Mattis, the Trump administration has ruled that transgender individuals are generally disqualified from military service except under certain circumstances.
Transgender Troops Are Out Under New Policy
Mattis outlined the new policy recommendations in a February 22 memo. Transgender individuals are disqualified from military service unless they have not been diagnosed with gender dysphoria. Troops must also be willing to serve in their biological gender. Changing gender identity is no longer allowed under most circumstances.
Troops diagnosed with gender dysphoria or with a history of this diagnosis are generally barred from military service. However, they may serve if they have been deemed stable for 36 consecutive months in their biological gender prior to joining the military.
Transgender troops may also remain in uniform if they were diagnosed after joining, but remain in their biological gender and maintain deployability status in that gender.
If a service member was diagnosed between the Obama administration’s policy change in July 2016 and the adoption of this new policy, they may continue to serve and receive medical treatment for their diagnosis. This small subset of transgender troops may continue to serve in their preferred gender.
Mattis based his changes on a new transgender policy study conducted by Department of Defense officials and military leaders. This study generally contradicts the findings of a 2016 Rand Corporation study. The earlier study indicated that there would be minimal impact on military readiness and morale caused by the service of transgender troops in their preferred gender identity. The new study found that allowing troops diagnosed with gender dysphoria to serve or join the military would be detrimental to military readiness and morale.
“(T)he Department concludes that accommodating gender transition could impair unit readiness; undermine unit cohesion, as well as good order and discipline, by blurring the clear lines that demarcate male and female standards and policies where they exist; and lead to disproportionate costs,” the DoD report reads in part.
Transgender Policy Changes Were Rapidly Reversed
Under the former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, transgender individuals diagnosed with gender dysphoria were allowed to transition to their preferred gender identity. This policy was implemented in stages. As of July 1, 2016, currently serving transgender troops were allowed to openly serve without fear of discharge based on their gender identity. The final policy change of allowing transgender individuals to join the military in their preferred gender was set to roll out on July 1, 2017.
However, after a series of tweets from Trump in July 2017 and with coordinating action from Mattis, this policy was halted for a 6-month review process. This review led to the creation of the current administration’s policy on the military service of transgender troops.
Based on the Rand study, between 1,300 and 7,000 transgender troops are currently serving in the U.S. military. Per the new policy, only those troops willing to serve in their biological gender and who have not been diagnosed with gender dysphoria, except under specific circumstances, will no longer be allowed to serve or join.
Trump’s Ban Faces Legal Battles and Mixed Public Reaction
Trump’s ban on transgender individuals serving in the Armed Forces is already facing legal pushback. The Human Rights Campaign and Washington State are moving ahead with their federal lawsuit against the ban. They are joined by legal challenges in California. These legal battles continue earlier challenges that lifted the block on transgender individuals enlisting earlier in 2018. Based on these legal battles, Pentagon spokesperson Army Maj. David Eastburn noted that these policy changes would have little impact immediately.
Reaction to the change in policy has been generally split along party lines.
The Family Research Council, a conservative think tank, praised Trump’s decision in a series of tweets.
Congressman Ted Lieu wrote, in an opinion piece for Fortune magazine, that he believed these policy changes to be “stupid” and “unconstitutional.” Lieu is a veteran.
Troops and their families impacted by this decision are disturbed by these policy changes.
“The Trump administration’s continued insistence on targeting our families for discrimination is appalling, reckless and unpatriotic,” said Ashley Broadway-Mack, president of the American Military Partners Association and spouse of an active duty Army officer.