Army Capt. Alivia Stehlik, fourth from right, together with other transgender military members testify about their service before a House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel on Feb. 27.

Army Capt. Alivia Stehlik, fourth from right, together with other transgender military members testify about their service before a House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel on Feb. 27. Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

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Pentagon Marks First Day of New Transgender Policy

Some 1,400 service members have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria.

Friday marked the first day of the Defense Department’s revised policy on permitting transgender personnel to serve in the military, and an official noted that, while there are exceptions, “a diagnosis of gender dysphoria is presumptively disqualifying under the new policy.”

Anthony Kurta, whom President Trump tapped to be deputy undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness before withdrawing the nomination, told reporters that the new policy—announced by acting deputy Secretary David Norquist in March—is consistent with treating all members of the military with dignity.

Anyone currently serving or anyone under contract to enter the military who has been diagnosed with gender dysphoria is grandfathered, Kurta said in the Pentagon’s account. “They remain under the 2016 policy for the remainder of their careers.” They can reenlist and stay in the military.

Waivers are available, Kurta said. Applicants seeking them must demonstrate stability in their biological sex for 36 months and “be able to meet all applicable standards of those associated with their biological sex,” he said.

Kurta, a retired admiral and human resources specialist who is performing the duties of the deputy undersecretary for personnel and readiness, said future diagnoses of gender dysphoria will be dealt with on an individual basis. “If the service member can continue to meet all standards, including deployablity standards, and all those associated with their biological sex, then the service member can continue to serve without waiver.”

Service members who require gender transition to treat gender dysphoria or who cannot or will not meet the standards will be referred to the disability evaluation system for treatment that includes mental health counseling, according to Pentagon policy. All service members will be treated with dignity and respect, Kurta said. “DOD will take no action solely based on gender identity.” But those not eligible for grandfathering in the future will be referred for termination.

Because the department does not ask recruits about gender identity, DOD officials lack exact numbers of service members dealing with transgender issues. But a workplace and gender relations survey in 2016 showed just under 9,000 service members consider themselves transgender, the Pentagon reported. Some 1,400 service members have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria, with fewer than 10 receiving gender reassignment surgery.

The day before the policy took effect on April 12, the Human Rights Campaign issued a statement recommitting to “fighting the dangerous and discriminatory policy until it is defeated once and for all,” it said.

“At this difficult moment for transgender service members and those wishing to serve their country, every transgender patriot should know that a grateful nation supports you,” said HRC National Press Secretary Sarah McBride. “The Trump-Pence transgender troop ban is dangerous for both transgender people and our national security, which is why a bipartisan chorus of members of Congress, leading military experts and overwhelming majorities of Americans oppose this despicable policy. The fact that a service member who came out on Thursday can continue to serve openly while a service member who comes out on Monday can’t only reinforces the cruel and arbitrary nature of this ban.”