On July 13, 2015, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter released a statement proclaiming that “the Defense Department’s current regulations regarding transgender service members are outdated,” and indicated that the Department of Defense (DoD) is actively re-evaluating the ban on open transgender military service. In his statement, Carter issued two groundbreaking directives: 1) that the Department of Defense create a working group to conduct a 6 month study regarding the policy and readiness implications of permitting open transgender military service, and 2) that the decision authority regarding discharges based on gender identity is to be elevated to the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness for determination on all potential separation.

This historic news is on the heels of recent landmark changes made by the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps; all of which have made it more difficult to discharge transgender service members from their respective branches by raising the level of authority required to discharge a service member based on their gender identity.

Unfortunately this statement does not change the current policy regarding transgender military service, so the ban on open transgender military service is still in place. However, Carter’s statement strongly suggests that the Pentagon intends to move towards lifting the ban. Once the ban is formally lifted, transgender individuals will be able to serve their country openly and authentically; providing recognition to those service members and their families that is long overdue.

 

What does this mean for transgender service members and their families?

 

The following summarizes the main points of statement, the DoD’s intended review process, and the immediate impact on transgender service members and their families:

  • The ban on open transgender service has still not been formally lifted, and will continue to remain in place– even during the 6 month review process initiated by the DoD working group.
  • Until the ban on open transgender service is formally lifted, service members diagnosed with gender dysphoria and/or who identify as transgender are still at risk of being discharged upon discovery. However, this risk has decreased significantly given all cases involving discharging a service member based on gender identity must be reviewed by the DoD Under Secretary for final determination – regardless of the service member’s branch of service.
  • Until the ban on open transgender service is formally lifted, transgender individuals are still unable to enlist in the military if they openly identify as transgender and/or disclose that they identify as transgender.
  • Until the ban on open transgender service is formally lifted, transgender service members are still not permitted to take hormones, dress in preferred gender-specific uniforms, or reside in quarters different from the “established government status.”
  • Military leaders have asked for adequate time to assess the potential impact and anticipated policy changes that may be necessary upon lifting the ban on open transgender service.
  • A DoD working group will conduct a 6 month study to review policies and regulations, and to assess the potential impact and readiness of allowing transgender persons to serve openly. The working group will move forward with the study under the presumption that transgender individuals can serve openly without any adverse impact, except when objective evidence identifies any barriers.
      • The working group will be led by the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Brad Carson, and will include the Joint Staff, as well as military and civilian personnel representing all military services. The working group will report to the Deputy Secretary of Defense, Bob Work.
  • It is anticipated that the working group will establish guidelines on many areas, including: equal opportunity protections, uniform and grooming standards, access to gender-related medical care (e.g. hormone replacement therapy, etc.) and the effect that the presence of known transgender service members may have on a unit’s cohesion.
  • It is still unknown how this will affect TRICARE coverage for current transgender service members and/or their dependents enrolled in TRICARE. Note, the Department of Veterans Affairs does currently provide gender-related medical care for transgender veterans, including pre- and post-operative care. However, the Department of Veterans Affairs does not provide coverage for surgeries related to transgender transitions.

For more information, please contact:
Gene Silvestri
Veteran & Transgender Outreach Coordinator
(202) 695-AMPA (2672)

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Gene Silvestri; AMPA Veteran & Transgender Outreach Coordinator; veterans@militarypartners.org
Andy Blevins; AMPA Development Director; andy@militarypartners.org
Lori Hensic, PharmD; AMPA Director of Research & Policy; lori@militarypartners.org


 

The contents of this article are intended for informational purposes only. The details provided should not be taken as a substitute for consultation, professional advice, and/or official policies and regulations. The American Military Partner Association (AMPA) is not responsible for any liability and/or damages arising out of use, reference to, or reliance on any information presented.