Transgender cadets stuck in limbo, can graduate but not serve

Transgender cadets stuck in limbo, can graduate but not serve
Graduating cadets toss their hats into the air at the end of a graduation and commissioning ceremony at the U.S. Military Academy on May 23, 2015, in West Point, N.Y.Photo: Associated Press

Two transgender cadets, one at the U.S. Air Force Academy and the other at West Point, where the Army trains its soldiers, will be allowed to graduate this month after passing their exams — but will not be eligible to enlist and serve.

As USA Today first reported, the cadets are stuck in limbo because the Pentagon has yet to establish procedures for accepting openly transgender soldiers into its ranks.

Last year, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter ended the Pentagon’s ban on transgender troops, allowing them to serve openly, but no policies were set in place yet for new trans soldiers. That is scheduled to be developed and phased in this year.

“Currently, there is an Air Force Academy cadet who has identified as a transgender individual,” said Lt. Col. Allen Herritage, an academy spokesperson. “The cadet can graduate. But, per the current (Defense Department) transgender policy, this cadet cannot commission into the Air Force.  However, we are strongly recommending this individual for Air Force civil service as an option for continued service after the academy.”

“We can confirm that a military academy cadet has identified as transgender, however, per the current Department of Defense medical accessions policy, this cadet cannot commission,” said Army spokesperson Cynthia Smith.

When that cadet graduates, pending passage of finals, West Point will misgender them, recognizing them only by their assigned gender at birth and not their true gender identity.

“Americans who want to serve and can meet our standards should be afforded the opportunity to compete to do so,” Carter said at the time of the announcement that the ban would be rescinded. “Our mission is to defend this country, and we don’t want barriers unrelated to a person’s qualification to serve preventing us from recruiting or retaining the soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine who can best accomplish the mission.”

Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is scheduled to deliver the commencement address at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs on May 24.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is scheduled to give the commencement address at U.S. Military Academy at West Point on May 27.

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