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The Journal Gazette

  • Associated Press Transgender military members listen before the start of a subcommittee hearing Feb. 27 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019 1:00 am

Defense OKs new transgender policy

Associated Press

WASHINGTON – The Defense Department has approved a new policy that will largely bar transgender troops and military recruits from transitioning to another sex, and require most individuals to serve in their birth gender.

The memo outlining the new policy was obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press, and it comes after a lengthy legal battle. It falls short of the all-out ban that was initially ordered by President Donald Trump. But it will likely force the military to eventually discharge transgender individuals who need hormone treatments or surgery and can't or won't serve in their birth gender.

The order says the military services must implement the new policy in 30 days, giving some individuals a short window of time to qualify for gender transition if needed. And it allows service secretaries to waive the policy on a case-by-case basis.

Under the new rules, currently serving transgender troops and anyone who has signed an enlistment contract by April 12 may continue with plans for hormone treatments and gender transition if they have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria.

But after April 12, no one with gender dysphoria who is taking hormones or has transitioned to another gender will be allowed to enlist. And any currently serving troops diagnosed with gender dysphoria after April 12 will have to serve in their birth gender and will be barred from taking hormones or getting transition surgery.

The memo lays out guidelines for discharge based on the new policy. It says a service member can be discharged based on a diagnosis of gender dysphoria if he or she is “unable or unwilling to adhere to all applicable standards, including the standards associated with his or her biological sex, or seeks transition to another gender.”

It adds that troops must be formally counseled and given a chance to change their decision before the discharge is finalized.

Palm Center, a California research institute, protested the new policy Tuesday. Director Aaron Belkin said, “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.”

The final legal injunction blocking the new policy was lifted last week, allowing the Pentagon to move forward. But restrictions on transgender troops are likely to face ongoing legal challenges and have been slammed by members of Congress as discriminatory and self-defeating.

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., said in February that barring service by transgender individuals “would cost us recruits at a time when so few Americans are willing to serve.” She spoke at a hearing in which transgender troops testified that transitioning to another sex made them stronger and more effective members of the military.