DOD Revises Transgender Policies to Align With White House

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  • By Terri Moon Cronk

Today is International Transgender Day of Visibility, and the Defense Department proudly recognizes transgender and gender non-conforming people and their continued struggle for equality, security and dignity, Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said.

"There is no place for violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression or sex characteristics," the press secretary said in a Pentagon news briefing today.

The DOD, along with its partners across the nation, will lead by example in the cause of advancing the human rights of LGBTIQ people around the world, he noted. LGBTIQ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and questioning individuals.

In January, President Joe Biden issued two executive orders that impact DOD transgender individuals: EO 1398, "Preventing And Combating Discrimination On The Basis Of Gender Identity Or Sexual Orientation," and EO 14004, "Enabling All Qualified Americans To Serve Their Country In Uniform."

"Today, the department is announcing the publication of revised editions of these two instructions," Kirby said. The revised policies in these instructions restore the DOD's original 2016 policies regarding transgender service. Specifically, they prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or an individual's identification as transgender. They also provide a means to access into the military in one's self-identify gender, provided all appropriate standards are met.

The editions provide a path for those in service for medical treatment, gender transition and recognition in one's self-identify gender, and they seek to protect the privacy of all service members and to treat them with dignity and respect at all times, he said.

The policies will be effective in 30 days to give the military services time to update service-level policies and provide guidance to commanders, service members, medical professionals and other communities of practice as appropriate during this period, Kirby added.

An illustration of a service member in silhouette saluting a group of fellow service members.
The department's interim guidance issued on January 29 remains in effect, he noted.

"[Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III] strongly believes the all-volunteer force thrives when it is composed of diverse Americans who can meet the high standards for military service in an inclusive force that … strengthens our national security posture," Kirby said.

Quoting Austin further, Kirby said, "The United States armed forces are in the business of defending our fellow citizens from our enemies, foreign and domestic. I believe we accomplish that mission more effectively when we represent all our fellow citizens."

"I also believe we should avail ourselves of the best possible talent in our population, regardless of gender identity. We would be rendering ourselves less fit to the task if we excluded from our ranks people who meet our standards and who have the skills and devotion to serve in uniform. This is the right thing to do. It is also the smart thing to do," Kirby said, quoting Austin.

Stephanie Miller, the DOD's military accession policy director, said department policy prohibits the discrimination on the basis of transgender status or gender identity. "That way, we try to protect the privacy of individuals," she said.

A director stands at a podium.
"But a subset of the transgender population are those who have been medically diagnosed with gender dysphoria, and may be seeking or have completed medical care," she said. Based on that subset, she added, those who have been diagnosed and are seeking medical care total about 2,200 transgender people in the military ranks.

Miller said the DOD will provide medically necessary care to each individual member as prescribed in their medical treatment plan, which will be looked at on a case-by-case basis. "It's certainly determined with their medical provider, and it runs the gamut in terms of individuals who may only seek cross-sex hormone therapy, versus those who may pursue a surgical intervention,' she explained.

Of the policies the DOD has published today, one is specific to medical accession standards, Miller said.

"Transgender applicants will certainly need to meet all other medical standards to include those standards that may be associated specifically with cross-sex hormone therapy, a previous diagnosis of gender dysphoria, or any form of surgical intervention," she said. "So, there are specific standards associated with those medical conditions or medical surgical interventions, but certainly individuals have to meet all other qualifying standards in that instruction."

(Editors note: this article was originally published here on March 31, 2021.)