The United States Navy and Marine Corps has announced that transgender Sailors and Marines with a diagnosis who are beginning, in the process of, or have completed transitioning will be able to petition to have their gender markers changed in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System starting this fall. By next summer both branches will begin accepting transgender recruits at boot camp, officer candidate schools, ROTC and, in the case of the Navy, the U.S. Naval Academy. These new policies and procedures are being developed in response to the Defense Department lifting the ban on openly-transgender service members serving in the U.S. military earlier this year.
According to ALNAV 053/16 a transgender service member is defined as “someone who has been diagnosed by a military medical professional who determines that a transition is medically necessary.” On August 5th Navy officials released a navy-wide message that confirmed transgender soldiers can openly serve, they are held to the same standards as any other service member, and must abide by all physical fitness, uniform and grooming, deployability, and retention, standards consistent with military readiness.
The Defense Department also plans on releasing updated handbooks for commanders, medical professionals, and transgender service members to clearly outline regulations for handling transitioning service members. For example, until transitioning is completed soldiers will be considered to be their initial gender and will be held to the standards for that gender, according to Lt. Jessica Anderson.
According to documents released by the Department of Defense the Military Health System will be required to provide medical care for transitions, hormone therapy and counseling sessions will be included in this care. Service members will be required to create a “transition plan” with their healthcare provider and commands. Each transition plan will be unique for each service member but all plans will require a legal identity change with a passport of ID to reflect such changes.
Many critics of the changes argue that this system can be easily abused. They fear prospective transgender citizens will enroll in the military to force taxpayers into covering the costs of the expensive sex-change procedures. However, military officals have counter this claim by stating the sex-change procedures will only be approved if deemed “medically necessary” by a health care professional. They went on to expalin that these procedures will only be deemed medically necessary if their ability to serve is affected for reasons related to gender identity or gender.