FAQ: Answers to Some Common Questions About Transgender People Joining the Military Following January 1, 2018

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Are transgender people permitted to join the military?

Yes.  Following rulings by various courts, beginning on January 1, 2018 transgender people are no longer excluded from joining the military.

What are the requirements for transgender people who wish to join the military?

Transgender people must be able to meet the same requirements as others who wish to join the military.  Transgender men, for example, must be able to meet the same requirements as other men who wish to join the military.  Transgender applicants are also subject to criteria related to gender transition, such as demonstrating a period of medical stability following transition-related care.

Will transgender people receive transition-related healthcare if they join the military?

Transgender applicants who have taken steps to transition will generally need to demonstrate medical stability following gender transition in order to join the military.  For those who join without having taken steps to transition and without any history of gender dysphoria, they will be entitled to medically necessary transition-related care like other service members who come out while serving.

What was the announcement by President Trump regarding transgender service members, and is it in effect?

On July 26, 2017, President Trump announced on Twitter that “the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.”  This was a dramatic and abrupt change in policy, because the military had previously conducted an extensive review and announced in June 2016 that transgender people should be allowed to serve openly.  Numerous retired generals and admirals warned that the policy change would harm the military.

Then, on August 27, 2017, President Trump issued a Presidential Memorandum, directing the Secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security to return to the military’s policy authorizing the discharge of openly transgender service members; to prohibit openly transgender people from joining the military; and to prohibit the funding of transition-related surgical care for transgender service members.

Implementation of President Trump’s policy has been preliminarily enjoined by various federal courts, including in Karnoski v. Trump, the challenge brought by Lambda Legal and Outserve-SLDN.

The federal government initially appealed the lower courts’ preliminary injunction orders, but it voluntarily withdrew those appeals.

Currently, President Trump’s discriminatory policy has been blocked and is not in effect pending resolution of the cases.

What is the status of the different cases?

There are four different federal cases challenging the directives:  Karnoski v. Trump, filed in Washington; Doe v. Trump, filed in Washington, D.C.; Stone v. Trump, filed in Maryland; and Stockman v. Trump, filed in California. 

All four cases are proceeding with litigation at the trial court level.  Check the above website links for updates. 

If you wish to see the court documents filed in the Karnoski v. Trump case (including the Judge’s orders), those documents are available here.

Can President Trump’s policy be implemented in the future?

Implementation of the policy is currently being blocked (or enjoined) pending resolution of the various cases.  The courts still need to decide whether the policy should be blocked permanently, and there may be appeals from those decisions. 

For the time being, transgender people are permitted to join and serve openly in the military (and cannot be separated based on their transgender status while the litigation proceeds).

I’m transgender and I’m thinking of joining the military. If I join now, will I be kicked out if the courts uphold the new policy?

There are a lot of factors that go into the decision whether to join now, including personal circumstances.  In addition, the details of the policy are still under consideration, including how the Defense Department will treat transgender people who are already serving.  Because these factors are of varying importance to different people, whether to join now, or to wait, is a very personal.  Feel free to reach out to us at the links provided below.

Where can I learn more?

If you are planning to join the military, we encourage you to contact an organization like Outserve-SLDN or SPART*A, to ensure you understand the guidelines and requirements for applying and joining the military.

What should I do if I encounter any problems in the enlistment process?

If you are transgender and serving or hoping to serve in the military, Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN want to learn about how you may be or have been affected by President Trump’s transgender military ban.

Please note the information provided here does not constitute legal advice, and you should not rely on it as legal advice.