Transgender Service Members Can Re-Enlist While Ban Is Reviewed

A protest outside the Times Square military recruiting station after President Trump tweeted that transgender people would no longer be allowed to serve in the U.S. military. (Jere Keys)

The Pentagon confirmed over the weekend that transgender service people will be able to re-enlist in the military while President Trump’s mid-August directive banning their service is reviewed.

U.S. Army Col. Rob Manning, spokesman for the Department of Defense, told reporters Friday: “Transgender service members whose term of service expires while the interim guidance is in effect, may, at the service member’s request, re-enlist under existing procedures. Current transgender service members will continue to serve throughout the military and continue to receive necessary medical treatment as prescribed by their medical provider in accordance with the Military Health System guidance.”

CNN writes:

Manning emphasized Friday that the “same current policy and procedures” remain in place on transgender service members while the review takes place.

[Secretary of Defense James] Mattis released interim guidance Thursday calling for the development of a plan to implement the directives in the President’s memorandum on transgender military service. reports on the controversial issues associated with President Trump’s ban and quotes Mattis, who said the Pentagon will create a plan that “will promote military readiness, lethality and unit cohesion.”

The Washington Post reports the LGBT community and allies have exhibited strong unity in the wake of President Trump’s announcement of the ban. The joint opposition includes factions that had some strained relations in the past:

In other words, a movement infrastructure built to resist earlier bans based on sexual orientation has been activated to fight a ban based on gender identity. The unity forged among different aspects of the movement has made it possible to act swiftly now.

Those coalitions built over 40 years allowed the movement to effectively pivot between legal and political advocacy while bridging internal divisions. The efforts to bridge the LGB and T gap and the gap among the movement’s political and legal wings made it more effective in pursuing its self-defined goals.

The pushback against Trump’s trans military ban shows that decades of effort to bridge tensions over identity and tactics have come together — to defend trans rights broadly and the right to serve specifically.

The LGBT movement’s long-term efforts to build effective internal coalitions may offer a model for other movements built on shared goals but with internal skirmishes over identities and tactics. Internal divisions can seriously challenge movements. But prioritizing policy goals and constructing durable coalitions to pursue them can lead to success.

The news that trans people can enlist during the period of review came after Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., announced Friday he is co-sponsoring an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act. The amendment seeks to block the Department of Defense from preventing service in the U.S. military based on gender identity.

Time writes:

“When less than one percent of Americans are volunteering to join the military, we should welcome all those who are willing and able to serve our country,” McCain said in a statement. “Any member of the military who meets the medical and readiness standards should be allowed to serve — including those who are transgender.”

… The proposed legislation does not outright guarantee the enlistment of transgender individuals who wish to serve in the military going forward, but it does require Defense Secretary James Mattis to conduct a study on the “future of recruitment,” as McCain put it in a tweet, as well as “express a sense of Congress that individuals who are qualified and can meet the standards to serve in the military should be eligible to serve,” according to a press release.

The amendment was co-sponsored by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Jack Reed, D-R.I.

Emily Wells
​Emily Wells is an Ear to the Ground blogger at Truthdig. As a journalist, she began as a crime reporter at the Pulitzer-winning daily newspaper, The Press-Enterprise...
Emily Wells

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