Pentagon Signs Directive to Implement Trump’s Transgender Military Ban

By Reuters
March 13, 2019US News
Pentagon Signs Directive to Implement Trump’s Transgender Military Ban
U.S. soldiers with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment patrol a new ditch they have dug to protect the base from attack in Iskandariya, Babil Province, Iraq on July 19, 2011. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON—The Defense Department signed a memo on March 12 that would enforce limitations on transgender people serving in the military.

The policy will take effect on April 12 and will bar most transgender individuals from serving if they require hormone treatments or transition surgery.

The memo, signed by David Norquist, currently the No. 2 official at the Pentagon, will allow service secretaries to issue waivers on a case-by-case basis.

President Donald Trump announced in July 2017 a ban on transgender people serving in the military. He later accepted Pentagon recommendations to limit the ban to individuals with a history of gender dysphoria, defined as “those who may require substantial medical treatment,” and allowed some exceptions.

A series of court challenges put the policy on hold, but the Supreme Court in January 2019 lifted lower-court rulings that had blocked the policy, allowing it to go into effect.

The Supreme Court Building
The Supreme Court Building is seen on in Washington on Dec. 24, 2018. (Eric Baradat/AFP/Getty Images)

Trump’s decision to bar many transgender troops reversed a landmark 2016 policy of his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, to let transgender people for the first time serve openly in the armed forces and receive medical care to transition genders.

Trump cited military focus and medical costs for rolling back the policy.

“In my judgment, the previous Administration failed to identify a sufficient basis to conclude that terminating the Departments’ longstanding policy and practice would not hinder military effectiveness and lethality, disrupt unit cohesion, or tax military resources,” read the memo signed by Trump on Aug. 25, 2017.

The memo also pointed to the fact that further study is needed to determine whether the policy changes under Obama had those negative effects.

The policies passed by Obama were set to go into effect on July 1, 2017, but then-Secretary Mattis delayed the implementation for six months to conduct a review of the policy’s potential impact on the “readiness or lethality” of the military.

United States Continues Role in Afghanistan as Troop Numbers Increase
U.S. service members walk off a helicopter on the runway at Camp Bost in Helmand Province, Afghanistan on Sept. 11, 2017. (Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images)

The delay did not prevent military personnel already serving to start transitioning their gender, which under previous policies would have resulted in the individual being automatically discharged.

As part of the implementation of the policy all soldiers received mandatory training on the issue.

In the training female soldiers were informed that males who identified as women would start using the female barracks, bathroom and shower facilities, warning them that the “Soldier still has male genitalia.”

The training calls on soldiers to treat the transgender individuals “with dignity and respect,” but said that “transgender soldiers are not required or expected to modify or adjust their behavior based on the fact that they do not ‘match’ other Soldiers.”

The training instructs the female soldiers to bring up with their chain of command concerns over sharing their shower facilities and barracks with men.

U.S. Army soldiers salute
U.S. Army soldiers salute during the national anthem during an anniversary ceremony of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, on Sept. 11, 2011. (John Moore/Getty Images)

Following the announcement of the policies in 2016 various practical concerns have been raised.

The new policy would have allowed men to serve in the military while meeting the physical criteria for women, not for men.

The minimum requirements for the Army Basic training for a male soldier aged between 17 and 21, is 35 push-ups. For a female soldier, it is 13 push-ups.

“It was nothing but ‘social engineering and political correctness’—not any new medical research—that led the Obama administration to reverse this policy,” according to Tony Perkis, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and president of the Family Research Council, in a statement on the organization’s website.

Allowing transgendered soldiers in the military would affect deployment and consume precious time and resources in training that would otherwise be unnecessary, Perkis said.

Soldiers should be able to be deployed anywhere at any time, without specialized medical care. But transgendered individuals require ongoing medical care in the form of hormone treatments for the rest of their lives.

Jasper Fakkert contributed to this report.

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