Following the Pentagon’s announcement that transgendered members will be allowed to serve in the U.S. military openly, ten soldiers have formally asked to be recognized as their new gender.
The small number represents only those who have publicly said they are transgender, and doesn’t include soldiers who may be considering or beginning gender transition or those who don’t yet want to make an official paperwork change.
Gen. Mark Milley, chief of staff of the Army, said the key now is to educate the force, particularly commanders who will have to make decisions about soldiers in their units who request a gender change.
“Is the Army ready? Well, we are educating ourselves, and we are trying to get ready,” Milley said in an interview with the Associated Press. “We’re well past the issue of debating and arguing about transgender. We are now into execution, to make sure the program is carried out with diligence, dignity, respect.”
New transgender guidelines were approved earlier this month.
Transgender troops are now able to receive medical care and begin changing their gender identifications in the Pentagon’s personnel system. Next year, the military services will begin allowing transgender individuals to enlist, as long as they meet required standards and have been stable in their identified gender for 18 months.
“We’re monitoring implementation closely, and everything we’ve seen so far points to a military organization fully committed to treating everyone equally and providing medically necessary care to all troops, not just some,” said Aaron Belkin, director of the California-based Palm Center, an independent research institute. “My conclusion, so far, is that implementation has proceeded smoothly and successfully.”
Milley and other military leaders were concerned the move was coming too fast
The new rules and guidelines about service members changing their gender must be developed by November 1.
Now, he said, the Army is getting education programs out to the force to make sure troops and commanders know the new rules, process, medical criteria and who has the authority to make decisions on a service member’s gender change.
Under the new Army guidelines, training must be developed by Nov. 1, and it must be completed throughout the force by next July.
Transgender troops currently serving can request that their gender be officially changed, and they can submit required documentation, including medical approval saying the person has been stable in his or her preferred gender for 18 months and a driver’s license showing the preferred gender.
Commanders will have 30 days to respond for active duty troops and 60 days for soldiers in the National Guard and Reserve.
The transgender service members will be able to use the bathrooms, housing, uniforms and fitness standards of their preferred gender only after they have legally transitioned to that identity and it’s documented in their military personnel records.
Commanders can allow “reasonable accommodations” including housing, shower and bathroom use to respect the modesty of the soldiers. However, any “transgender only” areas are prohibited.
A RAND study puts the number of transgendered services members at 2,500 to 7,000 and around 1500 to 4000 in the reserves.