What is the military’s current policy on transgenderism?

In June 2016, Ash Carter, the secretary of defense under President Obama, repealed the ban on allowing transgender men and women to serve openly in the military. At the time, Sec. Carter gave the services one year to implement any necessary changes.

At the beginning of this month Defense Secretary Jim Mattis modified the policy by putting a six-month hold on allowing additional transgender people from enlisting in the service.

Didn’t President Trump change the policy this week?

No, not yet. On Wednesday President Trump tweeted that the current policy will be changing:

After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you

But on Thursday officials at the Pentagon clarified that the tweets are not considered an order from the commander in chief. According to the Associated Press, transgender troops will be allowed to remain in uniform until Defense Secretary Mattis receives an authoritative directive to remove them. For now, “there will be no modifications” to current policy, said Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in an internal memo to all military service chiefs, commanders, and enlisted leaders.

How does the current policy affect transgender people and others in the military?

Earlier this month, the U.S. Army began implementing mandatory training to educate soldiers on the service’s transgender policy. This training provides some insight on how the policy is being implemented. Some of the changes are:

• If the “gender transition is medically necessary” the soldier “will be provided medical care and treatment for the diagnosed medical condition” at the taxpayer expense.

• If approved by a doctor, soldiers will be held to the standards of their gender marker in DEERS (i.e., their personnel record). In other words, by receiving the certification by a physician and changing the “gender marker” in his paperwork, a man who identifies as a woman will be allowed to use the lower physical fitness standards for women and can be restricted from serving in positions requiring routine exposure to direct combat.

• Soldiers will use the billeting, bathroom, and shower facilities associated with their gender marker in DEERS.

• Soldiers are told that it is considered “gossip” to reveal a “Soldier’s gender identity, sexuality, medical challenges, and/or gender transition.”

• Soldiers going through the gender transition process may be eligible for “extended leave status or participation in other voluntary absence programs during the gender transition process” or receive special treatment, such as having their physical fitness test delayed.

• The training 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 document 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.”  

What caused President Trump to change his mind about the policy?

According to David Brody of Christian Broadcasting Network, members of Trump’s evangelical advisory board discussed strategy to reverse the military transgender policy at the White House two weeks ago.

Brody also said the group had sent the president a letter this week asking him to reverse the current policy.

How many transgender troops are currently in the military?

No one knows the exact number. The Department of Defense calculates up to 7,000 while the RAND Corporation says somewhere around 2,500. The Williams Institute, a pro-LGBT think tank estimates that currently there are approximately 15,500 transgender individuals serving on active duty or in the Guard or Reserve forces.

Shouldn’t individuals who are qualified and willing to serve be allowed to serve in the military?

Even if we set aside that reality that the biological nature of maleness and femaleness cannot be changed, there are legitimate reasons to consider transgender people unqualified to serve.

For instance, those in transition often have to take hormone injections. But a need to consistently have injections to treat a condition, such as diabetes, is consider medically disqualifying. As Donna Carol Voss says,

What happens on a Forward Operating Base if medical supplies are delayed? Or if a soldier is cut off from the base for any length of time? What happens to that soldier’s mental and emotional functioning without the needed hormone injections? If the discomfort with one’s biological sex is so great that one is willing to receive hormone injections to ease it, we can assume that not receiving the injections would be detrimental to one’s well-being and therefore combat effectiveness.

Another disqualifying factor is suicide. Anyone who has attempted suicide is considered medically disqualified and unfit for service. Since 41 percent of people who identify as transgender have attempted suicide (compared to the 4.6 percent of the overall U.S. population who report a lifetime suicide), almost half would be disqualified for this reason alone. And as Ryan Anderson notes, people who identify as transgender also suffer a host of mental health and social problems—including anxiety, depression, and substance abuse—at higher rates than the general population.

Note: Many of these same disqualifying factors that endanger military readiness are reasons why Christians need to show extra compassion for transgender individuals. For more on how we can apply the gospel to this issue see Andrew T. Walker’s article, “The Christian Response to Gender Dysphoria” and Sam Allberry’s “What Christianity Alone Offers Transgender Persons.”