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Navy, Marines to Accept Transgender Recruits by July 2017

The Pentagon celebrates Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, and Transgender Pride Month. Chad J. McNeeley/Navy
The Pentagon celebrates Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, and Transgender Pride Month. Chad J. McNeeley/Navy

In the wake of the Defense Department's June reversal of its ban on transgender troops serving openly, the Navy has issued interim guidance for transgender Marines and sailors as new policies are being implemented, including a timeframe for acceptance of transgender recruits and for medical care related to transition.

In a Navy-wide message published Aug. 5, Navy officials reaffirmed that all transgender sailors and Marines could serve openly, subject to the same standards as any other service member, and could not be involuntarily separated or denied re-enlistment on the basis of gender identity alone.

Both services will begin admitting transgender applicants who meet all service standards no later than July 1, 2017, the message said.

"The gender identity of an otherwise qualified individual will not bar them from joining the Navy or Marine Corps, from admission to the United States Naval Academy, or from participating in Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps or any other accession program," states the message, signed by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus.

By Oct. 1 of this year, officials said, the Defense Department will complete and issue a handbook for commanders and all affected by the new policy, as well as medical guidance for providing transition care to transgender troops. By then, the military health system will be required to provide sailors and Marines with "medically necessary" care related to gender transition, in accordance with the guidance that will be developed.

Troops needing medical treatment related to being transgender will be treated like any other service member in need of medical treatment, they said.

"A sailor or Marine whose ability to serve is adversely affected by a medical condition or medical treatment related to their gender identity should be treated in a manner consistent with a member whose ability to serve is similarly affected for reasons unrelated to gender identity or gender transition," the message states.

By Oct. 1, transgender sailors and Marines also will be able to begin the process of changing their gender in military personnel management systems, officials said. Once that change is complete, those troops will be required to use the correct berthing, bathroom and shower facilities related to their preferred gender.

The Navy is still developing procedures to allow transgender troops to complete a gender marker change in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System, officials said. While those efforts are ongoing, requests to make a gender transition and other requests related to transgender service will be sent to the first general or flag officer in a Marine or sailor's chain of command for forwarding to the assistant secretary of the Navy for Manpower and Reserve Affairs. They will then be addressed on a case-by-case basis.

Other questions related to transgender service should be directed to the relevant Service Central Coordination Cell, officials said.

Between this November and next July, the Department of the Navy plans to conduct training for troops from both services, with specialized training for commanders and medical personnel.

Mabus will release a Secretary of the Navy Instruction no later than Nov. 1 that outlines policy, procedures and responsibilities related to personnel matters for transgender troops, including retention and accession standards, in-service transition, and medical coverage.

Implementing guidance related to gender transition in the DEERS system and how to conduct transition while meeting operational and readiness needs will also be released this fall, officials said.

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at@HopeSeck.

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