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Pentagon issues handbook on transgender troops

Pentagon issues handbook on transgender troops
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The Pentagon has issued a handbook on how commanders should deal with troops changing genders following the end of the ban on transgender service members.

“The handbook is designed to assist our transgender service members in their gender transition, help commanders with their duties and responsibilities, and help all service members understand new policies enabling the open service of transgender service members,” the handbook says.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced June 30 that transgender troops were allowed to serve openly effectively immediately. 

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But the new policy included a 90-day grace period before the military would begin covering medical care for transgender troops and troops could change their gender in the Pentagon’s personnel system.

The 90-day period, which ended Saturday, was also meant to allow time for the Pentagon to craft the handbook.

According to the 72-page handbook, a transition will start when a military medical provider diagnoses that a transition is medically necessary. 

Transitioning troops then have to notify their commanders, and commanders have to 90 days to respond. Commanders will be able to take into consideration individual circumstances and military readiness, according to the handbook.

In order to change their gender in the Pentagon’s personnel system, troops will have to have a birth certificate, court order or U.S. passport that reflects their gender identity, according to the handbook.

Once the military medical provider determines transition is complete, the service member will have to meet all the standards of their gender identity.

“There are no separate standards for transgender service members,” the handbook says.

But if troops find they have difficulty meeting the standards of their birth gender during transition, commanders will be able to make exceptions.

“Individuals undergoing cross-sex hormone therapy may experience changes to their body shape and physical strength, which may have a notable effect on their ability to maintain standards,” the guidebook says. “If that is the case, consult with the individual and the [military medical provider] as you would for any other service member with a medical condition affecting their ability to meet physical fitness standards.”

Commanders will also be able to implement “reasonable accommodations” for privacy in areas such as showers and bathrooms, the guidebook says. For example, they can install shower curtains or adjust the timing of when someone takes a shower.

But such privacy measures “should be done with the intent of avoiding any stigmatizing impact to any service member,” the guidebook says.

Other troops, the guidebook says, are responsible for stopping bullying and harassment, and being respectful of others’ privacy and personal information.

“The cornerstone of DoD values is treating every Service member with dignity and respect,” the guidebook says. “Anyone who wants to serve their country, upholds our values, and can meet our standards, should be given the opportunity to compete to do so.”

The Palm Center, an independent think tank that researches issues of gender and sexuality, said Monday the guidebook is a step toward enhancing military readiness by supporting all service members.

“The military’s continued progress in integrating transgender service members is a tribute to core principles and values,” Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center, said in a written statement Monday. “It’s simple: encourage the most capable Americans to defend the nation; apply the same standards and expectations to all; and support every service member with medically necessary care.”