Today is the day that the US Military implements its new policy in relation to Trans personnel.
According to the US Defense Department, the policy is not a ban on Trans people serving in the military.
“Transgender individuals are not excluded from military service, and DOD policy specifically prohibits discrimination based on gender identity,” according to the DOD website states – as reported by NBC News. “But all persons, whether or not they are transgender, must meet all military standards, including the standards associated with their biological sex. Waivers or exceptions to these standards may be granted on a case-by-case basis.”
However, Trans advocates disagree – asserting that the new policy is a ban on Trans personnel.
“This is telling qualified people they are not allowed to serve. That is the definition of a ban.” Staff Sgt. Patricia King tells NBC News. King is the first openly Trans infantry soldier in the US, as well as the first enlisted female infantry soldier in US military history.
Under the terms of the new policy, Trans personnel who are currently serving and who have already received a diagnosis of gender dysphoria will be allowed to continue to serve in their preferred gender. But, after 12 April, when the new policy goes into effect, no one with gender dysphoria who is taking hormones or has transitioned will be allowed to enlist.
How did we get here?
Trans people began to be explicitly excluded from the US military from the 1960 – mental health grounds were used to exclude or discharge anyone who presented with ‘gender issues’.
This exclusion of trans people was tested in court a number of times during the 1980s, specifically around the provision of medical care for existing service personnel.
The 2011 repeal of the Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell policy – which made it possible for lesbian, gay, and bisexual people to openly serve in the US military – did not include Trans people. Trans people remained excluded from service.
Things began to change in 2015, and in 2016 it became official policy that existing military personnel would face no negative consequences if they disclosed that they were Trans. This was extended further on 1 January 2018 when enlisting personnel – new recruits – could disclose that they were Trans and would be welcomed into the US military.
The intervention by President Trump
Communicating via his official Twitter account, on 26 July 2017, President Trump declared a ban on Trans people from serving in the US military. This was formalised by a Presidential Memorandum that was signed on 25 August 2017.
The announcement of the ban by President Trump appeared to be a response to pressure from conservative Republicans – led by Vicky Hartzler, who is the Congressional representative for a district in Missouri.
Taking the fight to the courts
Immediately following the memorandum from President Trump, a number of legal actions were initiated. These proceedings successfully resulted in Federal Court injunctions that prevented the President’s memorandum from taking effect.
However, on 22 January 2019, the US Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favour of the Trump administration – clearing the way for the ban to be enforced. The court didn’t hear arguments in the case and didn’t provide its own explanation of its decision.
What happens next
The US Defense Department has implemented the ban as of 12 April 2019.