Army discharge policy: Changing while remaining the same

This past Friday the US Army suspended the direct discharge of soldiers on account of being transgender. Any such cases must henceforth be reviewed by the Assistant Secretary of the Army.

Today’s action by the Army helps over 6,000 transgender soldiers serving in silence.
While transgender service members welcome this step, they recognize it is only a stopgap measure aimed at making a failing policy fail less. What they and their commanders need is a comprehensive, Department-level policy review.

--Allyson Robinson, a former Army captain and SPARTA Director of Policy

In February Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter suggested at a town hall meeting in Kandahar, Afghanistan that he is open to the idea of transgender military service.

I’m very open-minded about [it] provided they can do what we need them to do for us. And I don’t think anything but their suitability for service should preclude them.

--SoD Ashton Carter

Shortly after Carter made his remark, Press Secretary Josh Earnest endorsed his comments.

I can tell you the president agrees with the sentiment that all Americans who are qualified to serve should be able to serve, and for that reason, we here at the White House welcome the comments of the secretary of defense.

--Josh Earnest

Prior to Carter's confirmation hearing in January, Earnest referred all questions about the ban on transgender military service to the Pentagon.

The Army's action has no bearing on any other branch of the military.

Changing the current policy will require an official review by the Department of Defense, which has been quite slow in getting underway.

Asked about next steps, Earnest retreated to past policy:

To talk about what those next steps might be, I’d refer you to the Department of Defense.


Lt. Cmdr. Nathan Christensen, a Pentagon spokesperson, said Monday he has nothing more to add to Carter’s comments and confirmed no specific review of the ban on transgender service is ongoing.

However, Christensen said the Pentagon has undertaken a routine review of its medical accession policy that’s expected to last 12 to 18 months, although the review isn’t specific to the ban on transgender service. The last such review was conducted in 2011 and left the medical regulation barring transgender service in place.

Washington Blade

To those familiar with how the military chain of command works, the commander-in-chief’s intent could not be clearer: President Obama has done more to ensure transgender Americans are treated fairly and with respect than all those who’ve previously held the office combined,” Robinson said. “Good subordinate leaders take their commander’s intent and execute – they get the job done. That’s what SPARTA’s transgender members, their commanders, and their families are looking to Secretary Carter to do now.


In the meantime:

The Army policy concerning separation of transgender soldiers has not changed. By elevating disposition authority, the action will ensure consistency in the application of existing Department of Defense and Army policy.

--Lt. Col. Alayne Conway, a spokeswoman

In essence, the announcement places a moratorium on dismissals by requiring officers to explain their decision to discharge a transgender soldier to a high-ranking civilian leader, a move many would view as potentially damaging to their careers. The Pentagon took the same tack when it backed away from its Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy that banned gay and lesbian troops. It required a review of decisions to discharge gay troops by the department's top lawyer and service secretaries, and no further dismissals occurred.

Troops with gender dysphoria, a recognized medical condition, are barred from serving in the military for medical reasons. The Army is the first of the services to chip away at that ban. Last month, the Army also approved hormone treatments for Chelsea Manning, the transgender soldier convicted of divulging a trove of classified information to WikiLeaks. There are indications other services may follow suit, with Air Force Secretary Deborah James telling USA TODAY that she favors repealing the ban as well.

The army's decision to move forward and finalize the ALARACT is a big step in the right direction. But it is still just a step, and there is urgent work that still remains to be done. The most encouraging provision of the new policy is be provision suggesting suggesting that more comprehensive revisions may be coming within the next 12 months.

--Joshua Block, staff attorney for the LGBT and HIV projects at the American Civil Liberties Union

ALARACT is the acronym for an All Army Activities directive.

The Pentagon does not keep track of how many transgender troops have been dismissed. A Palm Center study found 24 such cases, while estimating that there are about 15,000 transgender troops serving.





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Since the autobiography...

Robyn's picture now at the stage where I have to convert all the chapter from blog ready to text ready...and that will happen privately...I'll be returning to mostly following news stories. for awhile.

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