The Army announced new service-level policy Thursday that allows transgender soldiers to serve openly — in accordance with Defense Department guidance announced in March — while receiving medical care and setting entry standards for prospective recruits diagnosed with gender dysphoria.
Some advocates, however, remain concerned that the force may not be willing to protect transgender soldiers from discrimination after a field-grade chaplain officer received only a local reprimand this week for calling transgender troops a “a MedBoard for Mental Wellness waiting to happen” and “a waste of military resources and funding” in public Facebook comments.
The new directive, a modified version of a similar policy first announced in 2016, and then rescinded via a Tweet from former president Donald Trump, says a soldier’s “gender identity will no longer be a basis for involuntary separation or military discharge, denied reenlistment or continuation of service, or subjected to adverse action or mistreatment,” according to an Army release.
For a soldier already in uniform, the transition begins with a gender dysphoria diagnosis from their primary care provider and follow-up appointments with a specialist, explained Col. Deidra Briggs-Anthony, assistant deputy of health affairs for manpower and reserve affairs.
The Army is asking commanders to treat gender dysphoria as any other illness or injury by coordinating with their soldiers and their medical providers to establish and support a treatment plan, said Briggs-Anthony during a media roundtable.
Medical treatment for gender dysphoria can consist of four components, from therapy to “cross-sex hormones, real-life experience, and…surgical intervention,” said Briggs-Anthony.
“After the treatment plan is completed, should the servicemember then want to change their gender marker to reflect that self-identified gender after it has been confirmed that stability has been reached,” she said, they can request a gender change that “goes through the personnel administrative channels.”
According to the release, people living with gender dysphoria who want to join the Army in their self-identified gender can do so following 18 months of stability, providing they meet medical and moral accession standards and possess government identification or a court order confirming their self-identified gender.
“This policy continues prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity or an individual’s identification as transgender,” said Maj. Gen. Douglas Stitt, director of the Army G-1 Military Personnel Management Office, alluding to anti-discrimination language in the Army’s command policy.
But enforcement of the policy has been questioned.
After his Facebook comments about trans troops, an Army investigator found that the 3rd Security Force Assistance Brigade chaplain, Maj. Andrew Calvert, violated the anti-discrimination policy and prohibitions against online misconduct.
Army Times first reported the investigation, which resulted in a General Officer Memorandum of Reprimand, a form of administrative punishment that when permanently filed is widely considered a career killer.
But after an appeal written on Calvert’s behalf by First Liberty Institute, a nonprofit legal organization dedicated to religious freedom, III Corps commander Lt. Gen. Robert White chose this week to locally file the GOMOR.
Local filing means that when Calvert next moves duty stations, the GOMOR will be destroyed.
“We’re very happy for Chaplain Calvert and we commend the Army for making the right decision,” said Mike Berry, general counsel for First Liberty Institute. “No service member should ever be punished because of their religious beliefs.”
Another advocate often at odds with First Liberty disagreed.
“I would call it a wretched hypocrisy to just sit there with this new policy, then you have a field-grade officer, a chaplain…[get] a local GOMOR which instantly goes away when he [is reassigned] as if it was never there,” said Mikey Weinstein, attorney and founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.
“What does that say? It’s the height of hypocrisy; it’s a scandalous outrage,” said Weinstein in a Friday phone interview.
When Army Times asked about Calvert’s punishment for substantiated allegations of discrimination against transgender soldiers, Stitt — the G-1 MPMO director — said simply that “all soldiers are treated with dignity and respect, and the policy provides that no otherwise qualified soldier may be…subjected to adverse action or treatment solely on the basis of gender identity.”
Lt. Col. Junel Jeffrey, a spokesperson for the Army’s manpower and reserve affairs office, explained in a phone interview that forthcoming Army-wide mandatory training on gender dysphoria and discrimination concerning transgender troops should help alleviate the issue.
She highlighted that the training’s first phase will be for chaplains, military lawyers, medical professionals, and inspector general personnel. All training on the updated policy must be completed no later than June 25, 2022, according to the Army release.
But policy and training won’t be enough if there isn’t proper enforcement, Weinstein noted.
“[It] wrecks it for the Army when it comes to buttressing diversity, unity, and equity,” he said.
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