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The transgender military ban starts today. Here’s what you need to know.

Soldiers on a transgender flag
Photo: Shutterstock

Almost two years ago, Donald Trump tweeted that he would be banning transgender people from the military.

In the midst of four federal lawsuits against the transgender military ban, the Supreme Court allowed the Department of Defense to implement it. That ban takes effect today.

Here’s what you need to know thanks to our friends over at Outserve-SLDN.

Can a transgender person join the military?

Most cannot. But there are a few exceptions.

A trans person is exempt if they signed a contract for enlistment or were selected for entrance to an officer commissioning program on or before April 11, 2019.

Related: Congress is trying to reverse Trump’s transgender military ban

A transgender person who is exempt and has a diagnosis of gender dysphoria but no medical treatment related to a transition can join if a mental health professional certifies that they have been “stable, without clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning” in their true gender for the last 18 months.

If they have started medical treatment, then people who are exempt will need a doctor’s letter saying that they’ve been stable in their gender for the last 18 months; that they have completed all transition-related care, including surgery; and that they’ve been stable on hormones for 18 months.

A nonexempt trans person who has a diagnosis of gender dysphoria but has’t received any transition-related health care will need a mental health professional to certify that they have been stable in their sex assigned at birth for the last 36 months and that a transition is not medically necessary.

But a nonexempt trans person who has started any medical treatment for a transition like hormones or surgery is disqualified from military service.

Nonexempt people can serve as their sex assigned at birth if they haven’t gotten a diagnosis of gender dysphoria.

Can a transgender person stay in the military?

If they have already had their gender marker corrected in the military ID database DEERS, then they cannot be separated just because of their gender, and they can reenlist and sign a new contract. If they take a period of time away from the military at the end of a previous contract, it is unknown at the moment if they can rejoin.

If they’re still in the military, though, they can continue to get medical attention for their transition.

Things are more difficult for trans people who haven’t gotten a diagnosis of gender dysphoria on or before April 11, 2019. They can continue to serve as their sex assigned at birth, and if they get a diagnosis of gender dysphoria they’ll need a military medical professional to certify that they don’t need to transition and are willing to serve as their sex assigned at birth.

But transgender people who haven’t started a transition yet have a right under current military policy to talk about their gender identity, as long as they don’t talk about it with a military mental health professional.

Can transgender people get a waiver from all of this?

Technically, yes, the military can issue a waiver to individual transgender people. But OutServe-SLDN, an organization for LGBTQ people in the military, says that they weren’t issued in the pre-2016 transgender military ban so they probably won’t be common.

Some state National Guards have said that they won’t discharge transgender people under the ban, so perhaps they will be issuing waivers.

Can transgender people present as they wish outside of work?

A transgender person serving as their sex assigned at birth can still wear appropriate civilian attire of any gender. The Navy has already announced that there is no policy to restrict off duty gender presentation.

Can transgender people still get medical care that is not related to transitioning?

Yes. Only exempt transgender people can get medical treatment related to transitioning, but every transgender person in the military can get medical care that’s unrelated to transitioning.

What can people do to fight this policy?

There are currently four federal lawsuits challenging the transgender military ban, and organizations like Lambda Legal, OutServe-SLDN, GLAD, and the NCLR could use financial help.

Also, legislation has been introduced in Congress to overturn the transgender military ban. Write your U.S. Representative and Senators and ask them to support it.

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