Transgender Persons Can Enlist in Military Starting Jan. 1

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According to the Associated Press, the Pentagon will start allowing transgender people to enlist in the military beginning Jan. 1, 2018, bucking policy set forth by the Trump Administration.  Enlistment will start in the new year and proceed while the legality of the ban is challenged in the courts and while the Pentagon continues to study the issue.

The Associated Press reports that this new policy results from legal challenges working their way through the court system and difficulty to enforce the Trump administration’s ban.  Two federal courts already have ruled against the ban. Potential transgender recruits will have to overcome a lengthy and strict set of physical, medical and mental conditions that make it possible, though difficult, for them to join the armed services.

Maj. David Eastburn, Pentagon spokesperson told The Associated Press on Monday that the new guidelines mean the Pentagon can disqualify potential recruits with gender dysphoria, a history of medical treatments associated with gender transition and those who underwent reconstruction. But such recruits are allowed in if a medical provider certifies they’ve been clinically stable in the preferred sex for 18 months and are free of significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or other important areas.

Transgender individuals receiving hormone therapy also must be stable on their medication for 18 months.

The requirements make it challenging for a transgender recruit to pass. But they mirror concerns President Barack Obama’s administration laid out when the Pentagon initially lifted its ban on transgender service last year.

The Pentagon has similar restrictions for recruits with a variety of medical or mental conditions, such as bipolar disorder.

“Due to the complexity of this new medical standard, trained medical officers will perform a medical prescreen of transgender applicants for military service who otherwise meet all applicable applicant standards,” Eastburn said.

Last year, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter ended the ban on transgender service members, allowing them to serve openly in the military. He said that within 12 months — or by July 2017 — transgender people also would be able to enlist.

Trump, however, tweeted in July that the federal government “will not accept or allow” transgender troops to serve “in any capacity” in the military. A month later, he issued a formal order telling the Pentagon to extend the ban. He gave the department six months to determine what to do about those currently serving.

Trump’s decision was quickly challenged in court, and two U.S. district court judges have already ruled against the ban. Part of one ruling required the government to allow transgender individuals to enlist beginning Jan. 1.

The government had asked that the Jan. 1 requirement be put on hold while the appeal proceeds. The Pentagon move Monday signals the growing sense within the government that authorities are likely to lose the legal fight.