Pentagon officials are saying that the trans military ban is not a ban on transgender people in the military at all.
The new policy, set to go into effect on April 12, would end the recruitment of and discharge servicemembers who have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria and are undergoing transitions in any form, whether that includes going by a new name and pronouns, taking hormone replacement therapy, presenting as their true gender, or surgery.
Transgender service members who have already started their transitions will be allowed to remain.
“Under the new policy, if they transitioned prior, they would not be eligible for accession into the military,” a Defense Department official said on a conference call earlier this week.
“I really don’t get any logic to how this gets you to ‘this is a ban on transgender service.’”
Gender dysphoria describes the stress that comes from having a gender identity that is incongruent with one’s sex assigned at birth. A diagnosis is often necessary to access medical care for trans people, and many transgender people consider this incongruence to be a defining experience of being transgender.
The military’s policy means that a transgender person must present as their sex assigned at birth, go by the pronouns associated with that sex, and refuse any gender affirmation medical care.
“Nobody is discharged solely on the basis of their gender identity,” another official said.
“This new policy does not allow discrimination based on gender identity. You can reveal your preference and reveal you are transgender, but you have to serve under standards of your biological sex.”
Effectively, the official Pentagon position is victim-blaming. If trans women would follow rules that cis women aren’t expected to follow, and trans men would follow rules that cis men aren’t expected to follow, then they could stay in the military.
If the argument sounds similar, that may be because it’s much like Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) was on paper. DADT didn’t exactly ban gay and bisexual people from the military – it technically mandated that LGB servicemembers never disclose their sexuality or relationships.
Since investigations into service members’ private lives continued even when DADT was official military policy, many LGB service members had to remain closeted in all aspects of their lives, depending on where in the military they worked.
Straight people, though, weren’t held to the same standard. And most people saw it as a ban.
For a hypothetical example, suppose the military required every service member to go to a Christian church once a week, wear a cross, join in group prayers that mentioned Jesus, and never discuss any non-Christian religious beliefs… but everyone would be free to believe whatever they wanted as long as they never talk about it.
Most people would call that a ban on non-Christians, and if the Pentagon said that they’re just applying the same rules to everyone – Christians and non-Christians are equally required to pray to Jesus – they would get laughed out of the room.
And Congressional Democrats are calling out the Trump administration for its semantic argument.
“Make no mistake, this is a discriminatory ban on transgender people, not a ban on a medical condition and we will continue to fight against this bigoted policy,” Representative Adam Smith (D-WA) told Buzzfeed News.