On October 6th, the Secretary of the Air Force and Air Force Chief of Staff released policy guidelines for how transgender airmen can transition – while staying in the Air Force.
This new policy comes less than three months after Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced that transgender troops will be able to serve openly in the U.S. armed forces.
The DoD-level policy includes providing transition services through the Military Health System, the ability to change gender in personnel management systems, and total force training.
Military medical providers must first diagnose airmen, proving transition surgery is a medical necessity, just like any other treatment. In the Air Force, the airman’s closest unit commander holds all keys to transitioning while in the USAF, including requests for surgery, uniform and PT exemptions, and deployment needs.
The gender used in the airman’s personnel record will determine which gender regulations and facilities to use, meaning until the transition is complete, transgender airmen will continue to use their gender from birth.
They are still deployable as long as they are medically qualified.
After receiving a diagnosis of medical need, the airman will inform their unit commander.The commander has 90 days to respond to the request. The commanding officer, airman, and medical staff will set out a timeline for a transition plan that takes operational needs, morale, and readiness into account.
The transition is complete (in the eyes of the Air Force) when the medical staff informs the airman’s unit commander and the airman provides legal documentation (such an updated birth certificate and passport) reflecting the change.
Uniform dress and appearance requirements will adhere to the gender reflected in their personnel record. Any exceptions to policy requests regarding uniform wear during the transition should be in writing to their immediate commander.
Transgender applicants who want to join the military will still have to meet all the physical conditioning standards for their branch, gender, age, and MOS. They will use the facilities for the gender marker in their personnel record. They may be exempt from fitness assessments during the transition plan period but are still expected to participate in unit PT.
A history of gender dysphoria, transition surgery, or hormone therapy is still a disqualifying factor for joining the military unless the recruit has been stable in their new gender for at least 18 months. A doctor must confirm the recruit’s gender stability.
Military policy protects transgender airmen from discrimination through their base equal opportunity office – a protection not afforded to transgender Americans in most states.