Navy unveils process for gender transition during service

The Navy released a new policy in June that lets transgender Sailors serve openly and details the process Sailors can use to transition to a different gender during service.

The guidance is based on a Defense Department instruction released earlier this year on transgender service. That instruction effectively reversed the Trump administration, which imposed hurdles to transgender service in the name of maintaining “the highest standards necessary to achieve maximum readiness, deployability, and lethality.”

The June guidance reaffirms DOD’s decision that transgender people can serve “openly and free from discrimination,” and explains in detail how Sailors can transition while serving.

Active-duty Sailors who want to transition must first receive a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, and a military medical provider (MMP) must find that gender transition is “medically necessary.”

Sailors can take that finding to their commanding officer, who is required to develop a gender transition plan that obtains “stability in the self-identified gender” for the Sailor. The CO and other authorities must approve the timing for the transition and develop a plan that “minimizes impacts to the mission (including deployment, operational, training, and exercise critical skills availability), as well as to the morale, welfare, good order and discipline of the command.”

The DOD instruction released in the spring acknowledged that transitioning service members could have an impact on readiness, but said commanders must do their best to minimize this impact.

Sometime before the transition takes place, the Navy guidance envisions a “real-life experience” phase, or RLE, which is when the Sailor starts living as their preferred gender. “RLE generally encompasses dressing in the new gender, as well as using self-identified gender berthing, head, and shower facilities,” it says.

While RLE normally occurs during off-duty hours, the guidance says on-duty RLE can be allowed if an exception to policy (ETP) request is approved.

Once transition is complete, the Sailor’s MMP will recommend a change in gender marker in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS). Transition ends when the CO approves a change to the DEERS marker, “upon which the Service Member is recognized in their self-identified gender.”

“The Service Members’ gender marker in DEERS determines the head, shower, locker room and berthing that will be utilized in facilities that are subject to regulation by the Navy,” the guidance says.

The guidance also imagines a possible return to a Sailor’s previous gender during active duty. “A Service Member who has completed a gender transition but has not resolved their gender dysphoria should consult with their MMP and commander,” it says. “If a return to their previous gender is medically required, the Service Member is to use the procedures outline in reference (c) and paragraph 6 of this NAVADMIN.”

The guidance says pronouns to be used for each Sailor will be those associated with their gender marker in DEERS, unless others are permitted under an approved ETP. After DEERS is changed, new pronouns must be used by all.

“Intentional misuse of transgender Service Member pronouns is inappropriate and inconsistent with the Navy zero tolerance policy on harassment,” the guidance says.

The same holds true for transgender Sailors who change their names to reflect their new gender. “If the Service Member has changed their name officially, intentional misuse of the Service Members birth or other former name is generally considered disrespectful and may constitute conduct inconsistent with the Navy zero tolerance policy on harassment,” it says.

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