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‘Effective immediately, transgender servicemembers may serve openly’

Commentary: Trans Progressive

Transgender service members from SPARTA pose with SPARTA’s Sue Fulton (far left) and Secretary of Defense Ash Carter (third from right). | PHOTO: TRANSMILITARY

I remember how tough it was for me to change my documented gender in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) as a military retiree in 2013. It was incredibly tough and onerous: I needed six separate pieces of documentation, to include proof of surgery. Most of the documents the Department of Defense (DoD) required to change a transgender person’s gender in the DEERS database were required to be originals or notarized copies.

I was the first transgender person to publicly document how to change their documented gender in DEERS. It was a big deal at the time.

Apparently, this policy is going to get significantly less onerous soon. It’s because June 30, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced in a press briefing, “Effective immediately, transgender servicemembers may serve openly, and they can no longer be discharged or otherwise separated from the military solely for being transgender individuals.”

It strikes me that transgender servicemembers now can dress as who they are off duty without fear of reprisal from their chains of command; without fear of discharge. As a transgender veteran with a Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell story related to being transgender, it’s incredible for me to contemplate.

According to the DoD, within the next 90 days the Department will do the following:

• The Department will issue a training handbook for commanders, transgender servicemembers and the force.

• The Department will issue medical guidance for providing transition related care to transgender servicemembers.

• The Military Health System will be required to provide transgender servicemembers with all medically necessary care related to gender transition, based on the guidance that is issued.

• Servicemembers will be able to begin the process to officially change their gender in our personnel management systems.

This is going to include how DoD’s healthcare system is going to deliver medical support to serving transgender members, as well as when a servicemembers’ gender marker will be changed in DEERS and the Defense Accounting and Financial Services (DFAS), and when the gender marker changes in DEERS, the servicemember will then adhere to the different gender’s uniform, grooming and physical readiness standards, as well as change barracks assignment and gendered bathroom and shower room use.

In the next nine months, “based on detailed guidance and training materials that will be issued, the Services will conduct training of the force – from commanders, to medical personnel, to the operating forces and recruiters.”

What’s less clear is the accession policy; the policy for bringing transgender recruits and officers into the services. The DoD’s Transgender Service Member Policy Implementation Fact Sheet states, “Our initial accession policy will require an individual to have completed any medical treatment that their doctor has determined is necessary in connection with their gender transition, and to have been stable in their preferred gender for 18 months, as certified by their doctor, before they can enter the military.” What the Department means when they say “completed any medical treatment that their doctor has determined is necessary” is going to depend a lot on what the Department says is required to be “completed” to change one’s gender marker in DEERS.

Of course, there are implications of open transgender military service beyond duty hours. If a soldier from Fort Bragg, a sailor from Harvey Point Defense Testing Activity, an airman from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base or a Marine from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point who’s changed their gender marker in DEERS, but not on their birth certificate, steps off their base into North Carolina wearing their appropriate dress military uniform per regulation, the servicemember would be violating North Carolina state law if that servicemember used a state government building’s bathroom in line with their DoD recognized gender.

Imagine, an active duty servicemember in dress uniform being arrested for using the “wrong” bathroom, and then realize that’s soon a real possibility.

I didn’t think I’d live to see the day when transgender servicemembers would serve openly, yet here that day is. In North Carolina and beyond, however, I can see how they are not only seeing the world change for themselves, but how they will change the world for other transgender people.



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Posted by on Jul 7, 2016. Filed under Trans Progressive. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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