Com­mit­tee to ad­dress role of trans­gen­der mil­i­tary re­cruits

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY ROWAN SCAR­BOR­OUGH

The House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee is likely to take up Wed­nes­day an amend­ment to ad­dress the Pen­tagon’s plans to open the ranks to trans­gen­der re­cruits, as troop train­ing on is­sues such as how to re­act to male gen­i­talia in the women’s shower is on­go­ing.

Some com­mit­tee Repub­li­cans are draft­ing lan­guage to cur­tail or reg­u­late the pro­gram. A vote could come dur­ing the com­mit­tee’s morn­ing-to-night markup of the 2018 de­fense bud­get bill.

“It’s still an im­por­tant is­sue with re­gards to the state of the cur­rent force and restor­ing the war­rior ethos, as well as con­vey­ing ex­pec­ta­tions to tax­pay­ers,” said Rep. Dun­can Hunter, Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can, who was de­ployed to Iraq and Afghanistan as a Marine Corps of­fi­cer.

“The Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee is likely to con­sider the is­sue this week,” said Mr. Hunter, a com­mit­tee mem­ber. “There are ques­tions on whether the ser­vices should be able to ac­tively re­cruit trans­gen­der can­di­dates, and what costs would be footed by tax­pay­ers in the ar­eas of ther­apy and re­align­ment, as well as the ex­is­tence of ad­e­quate con­science pro­tec­tions in the event that the pol­icy isn’t re­versed al­to­gether. Th­ese are things that need to be ad­dressed whether mem­bers like the topic or not.”

President Obama last year ended the ban on trans­gen­der troops. His de­fense sec­re­tary, Ash­ton Carter, is­sued a di­rec­tive that out­lines com­man­ders’ roles in ap­prov­ing sex re­as­sign­ment pro­ce­dures. Mr. Carter left be­hind a big de­ci­sion for De­fense Sec­re­tary James Mat­tis, a for­mer Marine Corps four-star gen­eral.

July 1 is Mr. Carter’s dead­line for the mil­i­tary branches to be­gin ac­cept­ing trans­gen­der re­cruits. Mr. Mat­tis must sign off on their plans, re­ject them or de­lay a de­ci­sion.

In the mean­time, the Armed Forces have been re­quir­ing troops to un­dergo manda­tory trans­gen­der sen­si­tiv­ity train­ing.

Army slide shows have been posted on­line that show what sol­diers are be­ing taught.

“Trans­gen­der sol­diers are sub­ject to the same stan­dards as any other sol­dier with the same DEERS [med­i­cal data­base en­roll­ment] gen­der marker,” the Army train­ing slides say. “An oth­er­wise qual­i­fied sol­dier shall not be in­vol­un­tar­ily separated, dis­charged or de­nied reen­list­ment or con­tin­u­a­tion of ser­vice on the ba­sis of gen­der iden­tity.”

On “gen­der marker change,” the slides say: “Once gen­der tran­si­tion is com­plete and the sol­dier’s gen­der marker in DEERS is changed, the sol­dier is ex­pected to ad­here to all mil­i­tary stan­dards as­so­ci­ated with the sol­dier’s gen­der marker in DEERS and use bil­let­ing, bath­room and shower fa­cil­i­ties in ac­cor­dance with the DEERS gen­der marker.”

The Army slides of­fer sev­eral “vi­gnettes” to guide sol­diers in how to re­act to an­other sol­dier’s tran­si­tion from one gen­der to an­other.

For ex­am­ple, what if a sol­dier sees a male who is be­com­ing a fe­male “in a bar wear­ing a dress and makeup?”

“Re­spect your col­league’s pri­vacy,” the guid­ance says. “If the sol­dier does not want any­one to know that he is tran­si­tion­ing, do not ‘out’ the sol­dier to other mem­bers in the unit.”

An­other sce­nario: “A sol­dier in your unit is tran­si­tion­ing from male to fe­male. As part of the med­i­cal treat­ment plan, the sol­dier is tak­ing cross-hor­mone ther­apy and voice ther­apy. About four months into the med­i­cal treat­ment, the sol­dier’s body and voice be­gin to vis­i­bly change.”

The Army ad­vises, “In­ter­vene if you witness other sol­diers ha­rass­ing or bul­ly­ing the trans­gen­der sol­dier.”

Con­cern­ing show­ers, the Army presents the pos­si­bil­ity that a male-to-fe­male tran­si­tion­ing sol­dier will be­gin us­ing the women’s shower. “Be­cause she did not un­dergo a sur­gi­cal change, the sol­dier still has male gen­i­talia.”

The an­swer: “All sol­diers should be re­spect­ful of the pri­vacy and mod­esty con­cerns of oth­ers. How­ever, trans­gen­der sol­diers are not re­quired or ex­pected to mod­ify or ad­just their be­hav­ior based on the fact that they do not ‘match’ other sol­diers.”

Then there is the pos­si­bil­ity that a fe­male sol­dier tran­si­tion­ing to male is preg­nant.

The Army says, “Un­der­stand that sol­diers who have tran­si­tioned gen­der may re­main sus­cep­ti­ble to med­i­cal con­di­tions as­so­ci­ated with their birth gen­der.”

Mr. Hunter told The Wash­ing­ton Times that the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion did not show that this new pol­icy and all its costs and op­er­a­tional re­quire­ments to help com­bat readi­ness.

“In eight years un­der the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, the war­rior cul­ture within the Pen­tagon was over­taken by a cor­po­rate attitude and the de­sire to use the mil­i­tary ser­vices as a stag­ing ground for so­cial change,” he said. “We’re still ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the ef­fects of the last ad­min­is­tra­tion, and trans­gen­der ser­vice is a prime ex­am­ple. If the Pen­tagon is shy about tak­ing on a fight that’s in the best in­ter­est of ser­vice mem­bers be­cause of the pol­i­tics, then Congress should.”

Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee Chair­man Mac Thorn­berry, Texas Repub­li­can, on Mon­day re­leased his 2018 $631 bil­lion bud­get bill, which on Wed­nes­day can be amended by the full panel. He did not in­clude any lan­guage on trans­gen­der pol­icy.

Mr. Hunter pro­vided an Army doc­u­ment that out­lines manda­tory train­ing for sol­diers that be­gan last year. There are es­ti­mated to be about 2,400 trans­gen­der troops in the 1.2 mil­lion ac­tive force.

Ini­tial train­ing, or Tier 1, tar­geted “special staff” of chap­lains, lawyers, med­i­cal per­son­nel and inspector gen­eral agents. Tier 2 called for all com­man­ders to conduct train­ing and ed­u­ca­tion classes. On­go­ing Tier 3 is sched­uled to be com­pleted by July 1, Mr. Carter’s dead­line.

The guid­ance also called for set­ting up a “se­cure re­pos­i­tory” of lessons learned.

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