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.