Is the Pentagon retreating from its transgender military policy?

Is the Pentagon retreating from its transgender military policy?
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Less than one month remains before the armed forces are scheduled to fully implement the policy that lifted the ban on transgender troops, and a report in Military Times suggests integration of trans personnel may be delayed, or scrapped.

Quoting multiple anonymous sources, the report claims “senior leaders within each of the services” are seeking an “indefinite delay” as they “voice lingering concerns about the Obama-era policy intended to end discrimination but dismissed by critics as social experimentation.”

But could this be fake news, spread by anti-transgender forces within the military establishment?

LGBTQ Nation has learned from insiders in the trans military movement that their work, taking place behind the scenes with Pentagon brass, is on track to ensure what’s called the “accession policy” will go through July 1.

According to former defense secretary Ash Carter, who under President Obama instituted the change, the policy would require individuals to have completed any necessary medical treatment and to have been “stable in their identified gender for 18 months, as certified by their doctor, before they can enter the military.”

Now James Mattis is in charge of the Department of Defense. And while he made clear he had no intention to dismantle the Obama’s changes in our armed forces to support LGBTQ service personnel during his confirmation hearings, his prior record opposing women and LGBTQ troops and other recent actions by both the DoD and the Trump administration have only increased doubt and fear.

Related: Transgender cadets graduating from the Army and Air Force military academies not allowed to serve on active duty.

That feeling is of course now being stoked by the Military Times report, which claims that there are questions about the policy among “plenty in the ranks and inside the Pentagon,” focusing on “the practicality of expending such effort to accommodate a comparatively small demographic.”

A leading advocate for that “small demographic” swiftly put wheel chocks on that negative spin before it could gain altitude.

“I’ve heard nothing to make me change what I said earlier this year,” Sue Fulton, board member of SPARTA, told LGBTQ Nation. “I believe Secretary Mattis has much more important priorities, and that the final piece of the transgender policy will move forward in line with the existing policy. I’m confident the Secretary is more focused on real wars than culture wars.”

And Fulton followed-up with a pointed remark that called into question why Military Times would even publish such a controversial report, using only anonymous sources, a practice President Trump has denounced as evidence of “fake news:”

There may be people trying to rustle up controversy, but that doesn’t serve the troops or the mission.

The chief source of those complaints: the Army and the Marine Corps, according to one of the sources who reportedly spoke to Military Times on the condition of anonymity, “because the matter remains predecisional and extremely sensitive.”

“We had several questions for OSD [Office of the Secretary of Defense] seeking clarification on aspects of the policy that have not been addressed yet,” said another anonymous official, who told the paper the lack of proper funding was also a concern. “It’s not that we’re unsupportive or unwilling to implement it; just that there were administrative matters to be addressed.”

And the issues range from common sense, such as proposed privacy stalls in latrines, to calls for trans troops be required to wear bathing suits while using communal showers.

Army Lt. Col. Myles Caggins, the Pentagon’s spokesperson, told the paper there’s been no change to existing military policy allowing transgender troops already serving to do so openly. “And,” he added, “just like their fellow service members, [they may] receive all medically necessary care.”

Caggins sent an updated statement to LGBTQ Nation after publication of our report:

“The Secretary of Defense directed the Military Departments to assess their readiness to access transgender applicants into the military. The assessment is narrowly focused on readiness to access
transgender applicants, not on gender transition by currently serving Service members.”

The Defense Department estimates as many as 7,000 transgender troops serve in the active-duty force of 1.3 million.

Another leading LGBT advocacy group called any delay “unacceptable.” In a statement, Ashley Broadway-Mack, president of the American Military Partner Association, told the Military Times it would send a “deeply alarming signal” from the Trump administration.

“Thousands of transgender service members are openly and proudly serving our nation today,” the statement read, “and there is no reason not to move forward with the timeline as planned now for nearly a year. Any applicant, regardless of gender identity, who is qualified and willing to serve should be allowed to do so.”


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