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 PowerPoint and 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.
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.”
The slide tells soldiers to “understand that you may encounter individuals in barracks, bathrooms, or shower facilities with physical characteristics of the opposite sex despite having the same gender marker in DEERS.”
The next bullet point adds, “all Soldiers should be respectful of the privacy and modesty concerns of others. However, transgender Soldiers are not required or expected to modify or adjust their behavior based on the fact that they do not ‘match’ other Soldiers.”
This is a first. The military is normally in the business of telling soldiers to “modify or adjust their behavior” all the time.