Update: In signing a new policy recommendation from Sec. of Defense Jim Mattis, President Trump has limited the capacity in which transgender troops may serve in the military.
Certain troops are a target in the new policy, which the White House addressed in a statement, saying, "transgender persons with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria -- individuals who the policies state may require substantial medical treatment, including medications and surgery -- are disqualified from military service except under certain limited circumstances."
In a Pentagon memo, Mattis says he compiled a "Panel of Experts comprised of senior uniform and civilian Defense Department and U.S. Coast Guard leaders" and directed them to review the Obama-era policy allowing trans people to serve using "data, as well as their professional military judgement."
The panel came to the conclusion that allowing troops with a history of gender dysphoria or who have undergone treatments or surgery to change their gender to serve presents "substantial risk" as well as "imposing an unreasonable burder" on the military by deviating from their established regulations for mental and physical health in addition to sex-based standards.
Mattis' recommendation allows for persons with gender dysphoria to continue serving if they have "been stable for 36 consecutive months in their biological sex," if they are already enrolled and do not want to have gender-confirmation surgery, and soldiers currently serving who have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria may continue to seek treatment or have gender-confirmation surgery and serve under their preferred gender.
This story was originally published on December 17, 2017.
A federal judge has ruled that transgender people can enlist in the military starting on January 1, 2018, CNN reports. The Pentagon confirmed that it will move forward with transgender applicants on that date.
Federal Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ruled that the ban likely violates the Constitution, The New York Times reports.
"The court is not persuaded that defendants will be irreparably injured by allowing the accession of transgender individuals into the military beginning on Jan. 1, 2018," Kollar-Kotelly wrote in her ruling, which was obtained by the Times.
The ruling is another blow to President Donald Trump's agenda. He announced through a series of tweets in July that transgender people wouldn't be allowed to serve in the military at all. "Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail," Trump posted on July 26.
As the nonpartisan fact-checking site PolitiFact confirmed in July, the military currently spends more money on erectile dysfunction medications than it does on healthcare and procedures for transgender people.
Trump didn't elaborate on what he meant by transgender people being a "disruption" in the military, but retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel and current Senator Tammy Duckworth issued a powerful statement in August. Duckworth wrote that she didn't care whether the people saving her life "were gay, straight, transgender, black, white or brown. All that mattered was they didn't leave me behind." (Duckworth lost both her legs when her helicopter was shot down by a grenade in 2004.)
According to guidelines sent to military recruiters, transgender applicants will be referred to by their "preferred gender name and pronoun," and room and bathroom assignments will be determined by an applicant's gender identity.
Still, transgender applicants will face challenges that their cisgender counterparts don't. According to The Associated Press, any recruit who is on hormone therapy must be 18 months into the process in order to be allowed into the military. However, the outlet notes that this mirrors certain limitations suggested by the Obama administration last year.
With an estimated 15,500 transgender people currently serving in the United States Armed Forces, it's actually the largest employer of trans people. Today's ruling protects the transgender community's ability to put their lives on the line for this country.