On June 30, hours before the policy took effect, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis postponed the opening of military enlistments to transgender people for an additional six months. The delay does not prevent currently serving soldiers from transitioning, however. It is intended to give the joint chiefs more time to review and mitigate the Obama-era rule’s impact on the “readiness and lethality of our [armed] forces.”
Late into President Obama’s last term, his military officials allowed transgender soldiers to serve openly, even funding gender-change surgeries with taxpayer dollars. Former Defense Secretary Ash Carter set a July 1 deadline for all four military branches to write policies for accepting openly transgender enlistments. Formerly, soldiers exhibiting gender dysphoria were automatically discharged.
While the Pentagon’s review takes place behind closed doors and the inevitable culture-war volleys spill into the public square, it is critical to understand the real-life implications of the policy shift. I recently received a copy of the new “Tier Three Transgender Training” materials—a PowerPointand accompanying lesson plan excerpted below, with full documents at these links—that the Army is now using in mandatory training for all soldiers. The active-duty officer who sent the materials completed the training with 40 other soldiers last week instead of conducting their morning physical training as usual.
Military As Social Engineering, Not National Defense
The force-wide presentation sheds quite a bit of light on the implications of the rule change on transgender service members. The policy prioritizes subjective feelings over combat-readiness and inverts military order by placing the needs of individuals over the well-being of their units.
The policy allows transgender soldiers to switch their “gender marker” in the Army’s personnel database without undergoing sex reassignment surgery or any other physical changes.
For a soldier to officially change gender requires only some paperwork. A military doctor or civilian medical professional must certify that the transgender person has achieved “stability in the preferred gender” and the soldier must change the gender designation on the soldier’s passport or birth certificate. From that point on, the transgender soldier is “expected to adhere to all military standards associated with their gender,” and “use the billeting, bathroom and shower facilities” of their new gender.
For example, “Vignette Four” of the training module presents the following scenario: “following her transition from male to female (which did not include sex reassignment surgery) and gender marker change in DEERS [DEERS is the military’s personnel database], a transgender Soldier begins using female barracks, bathroom and shower facilities. Because she did not undergo a surgical change, the Soldier still has male genitalia.”
How should troops respond? “Soldiers must accept living and working conditions that are often austere, primitive, and characterized by little or no privacy.”