Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 3 / 18 January 2018

Navy and Marine Corps toughen rules for discharging transgender members

Courtesy KPBS

Courtesy KPBS

The Navy and Marine Corps have toughened the rules for discharging transgender members, similar to recent moves by other branches of the U.S. armed forces.

According to a memorandum, dated July 1, from Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, the level of authority required to discharge transgender sailors and marines has been raised higher up the chain of command.

“Effective immediately, separations initiated under the provisions of the references for service members with a diagnosis or history of gender dysphoria, who identify themselves as transgender, or who have taken steps to externalize the condition, must be forwarded to the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Manpower and Reserve Affairs) for decision,” wrote Mabus.

The day prior to the discharge rule change announcement, Tuesday, June 30, the Naval Air Station North Island in Coronado, California held the base’s first LGBT Pride event. A Navy Fleet Readiness Center Southwest spokesman told San Diego radio station KPBS 89.5/97.7 FM that the celebration was the first of its kind at a naval base on the West Coast.

The policy change follows steps taken earlier this year by the Army and the Air Force to elevate the decision authority for discharging transgender servicemembers in those branches of the U.S. military. In both branches neither gender dysphoria nor self-identification as transgender is an automatic circumstance that generates involuntary separation.

The American Military Partner Association, a national organization for LGBT military families, hailed the decision by the Navy and Marine Corps. But the group also called for a wholesale rescinding of the military’s policies that bar transgender servicemembers from serving openly.

“While this is welcome news and an important step in the right direction, it does not change the ultimate risk of being fired that transgender troops continue to face simply for being open and honest about who they are,” stated AMPA President Ashley Broadway-Mack. “We need the Department of Defense to expeditiously update the outdated regulations that continue to threaten and harm our transgender service members and their families.”

The step taken by the Navy this week comes after the Navy Times reported in March that the senior enlisted sailor of the U.S. Navy – Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Mike Stevens – would support open and honest service by transgender troops if the ban caused by outdated regulations was lifted.

Asked if transgender recruits who have completed their gender transitions should be allowed to serve, Stevens told the publication that if they meet the Navy’s standards, they should be allowed to serve. Stevens said, “So, I was a recruiter at one time. The Navy sets the guidelines for [who] we can allow to join the Navy. So if they’re physically, mentally and morally qualified, anybody who meets those criteria has an opportunity to serve their country.”

— Matthew S. Bajko, July 2, 2015 @ 3:47 pm PST
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