The Department of Defense issued its official implementation handbook for transgender service members and their commanders on Friday, just days before a Pentagon deadline for the military to provide gender transition medical care to members of the armed forces.
As “an administrative management tool,” the handbook is the core policy guide on which each of the services will base its own implementation plan. The handbook defines key terms, such as “gender dysphoria,” the clinical designation for individuals who feel that their sex and gender do not match. And in an introductory section titled “The Basics,” the handbook explains the differences between sex and gender identity, an understanding of which is now necessary for all military personnel:
“Every person has the right to have their gender identity recognized and respected, and all Service members who receive a diagnosis that gender transition is medically necessary will be provided with support and management to transition, within the bounds of military readiness.”
The handbook guides a serviceperson seeking transition between genders to communicate his or her intent with his or her unit, via letter or in person. The pre-transition serviceperson in question should, however, consider the consequences such a decision might have on his or her career, the handbook says. (The handbook, wisely, uses second person pronouns.)
One should also bear in mind that there is a physical readiness test required post-transition. (This is noteworthy because the standard physical readiness test, or PRT, demands slightly different levels of rigor for men and women.) There is, as yet, no standard assessment of psychological fitness for transgender service members, Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon explained to THE WEEKLY STANDARD.
The same spokesman told TWS that members of the military now have a full range of transition care services. “Service members are able to get the full gamut now. Counseling, hormone therapy, surgery—the whole deal,” Pahon said.
In June, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced an official timeline for the open integration of transgender service members. The policy timeline granted the military branches 90 days to prepare to provide medical care to transgender service members. In August, the head of the Defense Health Agency said that the health care program for personnel, Tricare, was covering transgender military family members and retirees even though there was no official policy yet.
Leading up to Carter’s initial announcement, military lawmakers on Capitol Hill had been questioning the Pentagon’s priorities. Nearly a year prior to Secretary Carter’s announcement, the House Armed Services Committee requested response to a list of 15 questions concerning what consequences such a measure might have on discrimination policies, among other things.
The committee’s letter asked, “What, if any, additional non-discrimination measure would be required if the transgender service policy is changed? What training would be required for all service members? What implementation challenges would there be? What measures would be required to overcome these challenges?”