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Pelosi Backs Pentagon’s Decision to Pay for Gender Changes

Soldiers stretch during sunrise before an early morning run at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, June 13, 2016. (Army photo by Sgt. Brandon Hubbard)

WASHINGTON — House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told PJM that she agrees with the Defense Department’s decision to pay for service members’ gender reassignment costs now that the ban on transgender individuals in the military has been lifted.

“Yes, of course, and I think that’s an easy question,” she said after her speech at the Palm Center’s “Symposium on Transgender Military Service” last week.

Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Peter Levine provided insight into the process a transgender service member would have to go through now that the ban has been lifted.

“The service member is responsible for meeting all applicable standards in their birth gender and after that they are responsible for meeting all applicable standards in their transitioned gender,” Levine said at the event.

“If they are unable for some reason to do that, then they apply for an exception for policy in the same way that any other service member would apply for an exception to policy. We are trying to treat transgender members like everybody else and not create a special category for them so the processes, if you can’t meet standards, are the same for transgender members as they are for anyone else,” he added.

Under the new policy, Levine said each a service member would be required to meet the standards for physical tests based on their transitioned gender or “target” gender.

“When someone starts taking hormones it changes their physical characteristics so we then treat a woman as a woman, and she has largely the physical characteristics as a women — not the same body she had when she was a man — so we then judge to that standard,” he said.

Levine also said the Pentagon will cover all gender reassignment medical care for current service members. He added that “cosmetic care” that is “not deemed to be necessary” would “probably” be provided as well, but paid for by the individual rather than the Pentagon.

“We will provide for all necessary medical care — now maybe cosmetic care that’s not deemed to be necessary, in which case we can probably provide it — but the service member will have to pay for it. But all necessary medical care will be provided,” he said.

According to Levine, at this time, individuals interested in joining the military should have already completed their gender transition.

“The rule for people joining the force, at least at this point, will be that you will have to have already transitioned and be stable in your target gender before you enter the service,” he said.

“We want to have the transition first, to the extent that there is medical treatment involved, that’s not inconsistent with the way we would deal with other people that have a medical condition that needs medical treatment, which they could get yourself treated and when you are ready, come in,” he added.

Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) attended the symposium and praised the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as well as the DoD’s decision to lift the ban on transgender individuals.

“Allowing transgender Americans to serve openly strengthens, not weakens, strengthens our military,” he said.

During his speech, Hoyer mentioned the Orlando mass shooter who killed 49 people at the Pulse LGBT nightclub and reportedly pledged allegiance to ISIS on a 911 call. Hoyer said the shooter’s motive is still not clear but speculated that he might have been experiencing pain himself.

“When Harvey Milk spoke publicly it was not safe to do so, and he found that out and he paid the price. We don’t know exactly what the motivation of the person in Orlando was, but certainly some of his relatives relate his anger and prejudice and bigotry against those who have a different sexual orientation,” Hoyer said.

“He may well have been conflicted. He may have been experiencing a great deal of pain himself and was therefore acting out. But for each of you who have stood up and spoken out, you will make the lives of your fellow service members and fellow Americans better.”