On his first day in office, forty-sixth President Joseph Biden, Jr. directed all agencies to address any policies in place that discriminated against individuals on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity (a person’s innate, deeply-felt psychological identification as a man, woman or some other gender), including housing, education, employment and health care.
As part of that vision, on January 25, Biden directed Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to put into action a policy that prohibits discrimination against transgender troops based on their gender identity. Within two months, the Pentagon is supposed to report the progress of reversing Trump’s ban that was announced by the former president in a tweet in July 2017 and surprised many of the high-ranking brass. Austin affirmed that the Pentagon will ensure transgender troops are not discharged or denied reenlistment based on gender identity. Their military records will be corrected if those outdated provisions are faulty and resulted in being forced out of the military.
“It’s the right thing to do. It’s also the smart thing to do,” said Austin. “I truly believe”, confirmed Austin, “that if you’re fit and you’re qualified to serve and you can maintain your standards, you should be allowed to serve.” Biden commented that “America is safer when everyone qualified to serve can do so openly and with pride.”
The History of Transgender Troops In The Military
In 2016, under President Obama, the Pentagon repealed a long-standing policy that prohibited transgender troops from serving openly (“don’t ask, don’t tell” policy from the Clinton Administration in 1993). In 2011, openly gay Americans were allowed to serve.
Obama’s policy allowed transgender troops to receive counseling and medical treatment, including surgery to align their physical gender with their gender identity when they have gender dysphoria
Gender dysphoria is the distress a person feels due to a mismatch between their gender identity and their sex assigned at birth. It was listed as a disorder in DMS-5, a psychiatric manual of diseases, until 2013 when the language was found stigmatizing. According to the American Psychiatric Association, the critical element of gender dysphoria is “clinically significant distress.” It is NOT a mental disorder.
Some people who are transgender will experience gender dysphoria. When the condition is diagnosed by a medical professional, reassignment surgery and transition therapy is considered by some insurers and states as a medically necessary treatment.
The Rand Corporation’s 2016 study for the Pentagon figured that medical costs for the military to include transgender members costs between $2.4 million and $8.4 million annually, a small fraction of the overall health expenditures of the military’s health-care budget.
In 2016, the Pentagon estimated that there were 9,000 transgender troops. Out of that number, only 1,000 or fewer had been diagnosed as gender dysphoria.
After Trump banned transgender service in the military, a Gallup poll taken in the summer of 2019, found that 71 percent of all Americans disagreed with that directive.
The transgender population has a high rate of suicide, lower income level, and is prone to stigma, particularly those of color. For a minority population, there is a high incidence of murder.
The myths surrounding transgenders are numerous:
- They are cross-dressers. Many people who cross-dress are comfortable with their assigned sex and generally do not wish to change it.
- They all take hormones and have surgery to change their sex. Some may or may not include hormone therapy, sex reassignment surgery and other medical procedures. They don’t physically transition.
- They cannot be attracted to cisgender people (those whom identify with the sex assigned at birth (i.e. male or female).
Two truths that unite transgenders are undisputable: Transgenders don’t feel comfortable with the sex they were assigned with at birth. Some wish to be addressed by certain pronouns not typically assigned to the general population. For example, rather than use a gender binary, they would prefer if people simply used their names or used a non-gendered pronoun such as “hir” or “they “rather than him for men and her for women. Best to ask!
Biden may come up resistance in Congress, but according to LGBT activists, the military, he is moving in the right direction.
When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know
For more detailed advice, see book, co-authored with a mother of a gay son and a psychiatrist, Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D.