The Department of Defense has issued a memo, signed by Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist, that details new rules which will largely limit transgender people serving in the U.S. military.
The policy will go into effect on April 12.
Currently serving trans troop members, and trans recruits who have signed an enlistment contract before April 12, will be allowed to continue with hormone treatment and planned gender transition if they already have a diagnosis of gender dysphoria.
After April 12, the military will not accept new recruits who have a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, or are taking hormones, or are planning to transition.
There are some limited exceptions to the ban.
Trans people with gender dysphoria who enter a contract to enlist before April 12, and are certified by a licensed mental health provider that they have been “stable” in their gender identity for 18 months (no significant distress or impairment in social or occupational areas of functioning), may qualify for exemption. Such exemptions would allow them to be eligible for transition-related care through the military health care system.
Also, individuals with no diagnosis of gender dysphoria and show a willingness to serve in their ‘biological sex’ may be allowed to enlist.
Service secretaries will be able to issue waivers on a case-by-case basis. Chris Johnson, of the Washington Blade, reports waivers “are granted at a discretion of defense officials ‘not infrequently,’ between 7-8% of all service members acceded with some kind of waiver.”
This is active duty Air Force Staff Sergeant Logan Ireland. This is who @realDonaldTrump wants to kick out of the military. pic.twitter.com/K8YqZHGyEV
— Mary Emily O'Hara (@MaryEmilyOHara) July 26, 2017
The new rules are a reversal of a Obama era policy (implemented June 30, 2016) that allowed transgender people to serve openly and receive medical treatment to aid transition.
Donald Trump surprised the nation and military leaders when he announced on July 26, 2017, his plan to completely ban trans service members. At the time, he said his decision was based on costs which made trans soldiers “financially burdensome.”
A 2016 RAND Corp. study estimated between 1,320 to 6,630 trans troops are currently on active duty.
The Pentagon’s annual budget for health care is $50 billion, and a report by USA Today shows that, since the ban was lifted in 2016, only $8 million has been spent on psychological and medical treatment to more than 1,500 trans troops.
Last year, all four service chiefs testified before Congress they had seen no issue with transgender troops serving openly.
The Palm Center’s Aaron Belkin estimates 10% of transgender military service members currently serving have received a gender dysphoria diagnosis and will be ‘grandfathered’ in under the new rules.
Belkin added, “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 new policy encountered several court challenges along the way resulting in four injunctions blocking implementation of the plan. The last of those injunctions was lifted last week.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi denounced the news.
“The President’s revival of his bigoted, disgusting ban on transgender service members is a stunning attack on the patriots who keep us safe and on the most fundamental ideals of our nation,” she told Reuters.
Speaking for the National Center for Transgender Equality, policy director Harper Jean Tobin called the ban “severe,” and a blow to the U.S. military.
"Throughout our nation’s history, we have seen arbitrary barriers in our military replaced with inclusion and equal standards," Tobin told BuzzFeed News. "This is the first time in American history such a step forward has been reversed, and it is a severe blow to the military and to the nation’s values."