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Navy allows transgender sailors to dress according to gender identity while off duty

Sailors march as part of the San Diego Military Contingent at the 2018 San Diego Pride Parade. The parade fosters pride, equality, and respect for all lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities locally, nationally, and globally. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nicholas Burgains/Released)

The Navy will allow sailors to dress and “live socially in their preferred gender while off-duty,” a policy announcement that comes amid new Pentagon restrictions on transgender people joining the military.

The statement, signed by Vice Adm. Robert Burke, clarifies that there is no policy prohibiting servicemembers to “express themselves off-duty in their preferred gender.”

“Appropriate civilian attire, as outlined in the uniform regulations, will not be determined based on gender,” according to the policy, which Burke signed in March.

The guidance does restrict off-duty attire in some overseas posts “to meet local conditions and host-nation agreements with foreign countries,” which would rest on the discretion of regional commanders.

The clarification follows a Supreme Court decision clearing the Pentagon to enforce its restrictions on those who identify as transgender from signing up for service while the new rules are being challenged in court.

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The policy, which went into effect Friday, stipulates that any current servicemembers diagnosed with gender dysphoria may continue to serve as their preferred gender. However, transgender people wishing to enlist now must adhere to standards associated with their biological sex.

Diagnosed gender dysphoria recruits can enlist “provided they can demonstrate 36 consecutive months of stability in their biological sex,” the Pentagon policy states. They must also be cleared by a mental health care provider to ensure that a transition “is not necessary to protect their mental health.”

The Pentagon argues that the policy, which is backed by the White House, is not a ban. But many LGBTQ organizations have filed lawsuits likening it to the Clinton-era “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which closeted gays and lesbians serving in the military.

Transgender advocates have decried the Pentagon rules but voiced support for the Navy’s latest policy statement.

“The Navy is taking care of its transgender service members by giving them the option to dress and express themselves as they choose,” Bree Fram, director at the LGBTQ military advocacy group SPART*A, told NBC News on Sunday.

NBC News reported that no other military branches have announced similar off-duty clothing policies for transgender troops, citing the Palm Center, a nonpartisan public policy think tank and OutServe-SLDN, an LGBTQ military advocacy group.

In addition to off-duty attire policies, the Navy policy emphasized zero-tolerance for harassment or hazing, stating that all servicemembers “are expected to continue to treat each other with dignity and respect.”

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© 2019 the Stars and Stripes

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.