Washington: Within weeks of the Pentagon allowing transgender service members to serve openly, the United States Army officials said 10 soldiers have formally asked to be recognised as their new, preferred gender.
The small number represents only those who have publicly said they are transgender, and doesn’t include soldiers who may be considering or beginning gender transition or those who don’t yet want to make an official paperwork change.
Gen Mark Milley, chief of staff of the US Army, said the key now is to educate the force, particularly commanders who will have to make decisions about soldiers in their units who request a gender change. “Is the army ready? Well, we are educating ourselves, and we are trying to get ready,” Milley said in an interview with The Associated Press. “We’re well-past the issue of debating and arguing about transgender. We are now into execution, to make sure the program is carried out with diligence, dignity, respect.”
The Pentagon policy took effect October 1, and army secretary Eric Fanning approved the service’s new transgender guidelines earlier this month. Defense secretary Ash Carter announced in June that he was ending the ban on transgender individuals serving openly in the military.
Transgender troops are now able to receive medical care and begin changing their gender identifications in the Pentagon’s personnel system. Next year, the military services will begin allowing transgender individuals to enlist, as long as they meet required standards and have been stable in their identified gender for 18 months.
“We’re monitoring implementation closely, and everything we’ve seen so far points to a military organization fully committed to treating everyone equally and providing medically necessary care to all troops, not just some,” said Aaron Belkin, director of the California-based Palm Center, an independent research institute. “My conclusion, so far, is that implementation has proceeded smoothly and successfully.” Milley said he did a lot of “self-education,” meeting with transgender individuals, both military and civilian, as well as other groups.
Under the new Army guidelines, training must be developed by Nov. 1, and it must be completed throughout the force by next July. Transgender troops currently serving can request that their gender be officially changed, and they can submit required documentation, including medical approval saying the person has been stable in his or her preferred gender for 18 months and a driver’s licence showing the preferred gender.
The transgender service members will be able to use the bathrooms, housing, uniforms and fitness standards of their preferred gender only after they have legally transitioned to that identity and it’s documented in their military personnel records.
The new policy, however, gives military commanders some flexibility, noting that not all gender transition cases are the same. Commanders will have the discretion to make decisions on a case-by-case basis, including on job placement, deployments, training delays and other accommodations, based on the needs of the military mission and whether the service members can perform their duties.
According to Carter, a RAND study found that there are between 2,500 and 7,000 transgender service members in the active duty military, and another 1,500 to 4,000 in the reserves.