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New Pentagon Rule: Must use gender neutral pronouns in military awards; Sen. Cotton demands explanation

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-AR. (Tom Williams/Pool/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)
September 08, 2023

Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) sent a letter Friday to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, blasting President Joe Biden’s Department of Defense for using “gender neutral” language for decoration and award citations.

In his letter to the secretary of defense, Cotton pressed the Defense Department for answers pertaining to the military’s new directive to use “gender neutral” language.

“Our military apparently will now use ‘themself’—which is not even a word, I hasten to add—instead of ‘himself’ or ‘herself’ to describe heroic or distinguished actions,” Cotton wrote. “Here is the absurd model language: ‘(Rank) First M. Last, Jr., United States (Military Service), distinguished themself by superior meritorious service in a position of significant responsibility as (position and duty assignment), from (month year) to (month year).'”

The “gender neutral” language for the military is part of a revised list of rules in the Department of Defense Manual 1348.33, Volume 4. The rules that mandate the utilization of pronouns such as “themself” will apply to awards such as the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Joint Service Achievement Medal, the Joint Meritorious Unit Award, and the Joint Service Commendation Medal, according to The Daily Signal.

In his letter, Cotton asked Austin whether he personally approved the inclusion of the “gender neutral” changes in the Manual of Military Decorations and Awards. Cotton also questioned whether service members would be able to request the use of male or female pronouns for individual award citations and other military ceremonies.

Finally, Cotton asked Austin to answer what other official documentation the Department of Defense has that requires pronouns such as “himself” and “herself” to be replaced with “themself.”

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The GOP senator requested that Austin respond with answers to each of his questions by Sept. 15. However, he also indicated that he would “welcome a reply” that the use of “gender neutral” pronouns was “just a practical joke” or a decision that was “immediately reversed” by Austin when it was brought to his attention.

“The previous guidance simply referred to service members as ‘himself or herself,'” Cotton wrote. “And, I want to stress, this language isn’t referring to unspecified personnel in the abstract or large numbers of troops—it refers to a specific, named person whose ‘preferred gender’ is presumably known.”

Taking another shot at Austin, Cotton claimed that Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth “apparently disagrees” with the Department of Defense’s “gender neutral” language, as she “continues to man the ramparts against gender-neutral physical fitness standards required by last year’s defense bill.”

“The Department’s embrace of far-left gender ideology doesn’t merely subvert the English language in ways that would astonish George Orwell,” Cotton added. “Worse, it exemplifies a Pentagon leadership consumed by the fads of the faculty lounge at a time when the Army can’t hit its recruiting goals, the Navy can’t keep ships out of dry dock, and the Air Force can’t find spare parts for planes.”