President Donald Trump signed a memo on Friday officially reversing an Obama-era policy that allowed transgender individuals from serving in the U.S. military.
The memo puts back in place the policies and practices that applied before June 2016 that generally banned transgenders from serving in the military.
The policy was changed by President Barack Obama in his last year in office. Besides allowing transgender people to serve in the military the military was also ordered to pay for the medical costs incurred for hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery.
“In my judgment, the previous Administration failed to identify a sufficient basis to conclude that terminating the Departments’ longstanding policy and practice would not hinder military effectiveness and lethality, disrupt unit cohesion, or tax military resources,” read the memo signed by President Trump.
The memo also pointed to the fact that further study is needed to determine whether the policy changes under Obama had those negative effects.
Sex-reassignment surgical procedures for military personnel will no longer be funded by the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security under the new policy. One exception being if transgender military personnel had already started treatment and discontinuing the treatment would be dangerous to the individual’s health.
The new policy will not go into effect until March 23, 2018. Defense Secretary Mattis has until February 21, 2018, to come up with a plan for how to return to the previous policies as well as for ending the funding for sex-changing medical procedures.
It is unclear yet what will happen to transgender individuals already serving in the military. The memo gives Secretary Mattis the authority to determine how to address the issue.
The policies passed by Obama were set to go into effect on July 1, but Secretary Mattis delayed the implementation for six months to conduct a review of the policy’s potential impact on the “readiness or lethality” of the military.
The delay did not prevent military personnel already serving to start transitioning their gender, which under previous policies would have resulted in the individual being automatically discharged.
As part of the implementation of the policy all soldiers received mandatory training on the issue.
In the training female soldiers were informed that males who identified as women would start using the female barracks, bathroom and shower facilities, warning them that the “Soldier still has male genitalia.”
The training calls on soldiers to treat the transgender individuals “with dignity and respect,” but said that “transgender soldiers are not required or expected to modify or adjust their behavior based on the fact that they do not ‘match’ other Soldiers.”
The training instructs the female soldiers to bring up with their chain of command concerns over sharing their shower facilities and barracks with men.
Following the announcement of the policies in 2016 various practical concerns have been raised.
The new policy would have allowed men to serve in the military while meeting the physical criteria for women, not for men.
The minimum requirements for the Army Basic training for a male soldier aged between 17 and 21, is 35 push-ups. For a female soldier it is 13 push ups.
“It was nothing but ‘social engineering and political correctness’—not any new medical research—that led the Obama administration to reverse this policy,” according to Tony Perkis, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and president of the Family Research Council, in a statement on the organization’s website.
Allowing transgendered soldiers in the military would affect deployment and consume precious time and resources in training that would otherwise be unnecessary, Perkis said.
Soldiers should be able to be deployed anywhere at any time, without specialized medical care. But transgendered individuals require ongoing medical care in the form of hormone treatments for the rest of their lives.