Starting January 1st, transgender people will be allowed to enlist in the military, a Pentagon official told The Associated Press Monday – though the hurdles they will have to jump in order to enlist may make the process a difficult one.
Maj. David Eastburn told The AP that the new guidelines and restrictions are comparable to those used for recruits who have a variety of other medical or mental conditions, including bipolar disorder. They involve a strict set of physical, medical and mental standards that potential recruits have to abide by, including proof from a medical provider that they have been stable in their preferred sex for 18 months and are free of significant distress or impairment in social or occupational contexts.
"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," he said.
The Pentagon's decision to move ahead with allowing transgender people to enlist flies in the face of President Trump’s much-criticized military ban. Since Trump's initial tweet this past July, two federal courts have already ruled against his proposed ban, pointing to the difficulty the federal government will face in enforcing it.
"The controversy will not be about whether you allow transgender enlistees, it's going to be on what terms," Oklahoma congressman Brad Carson told Bloomberg of the much-talked about policy. "That's really where the controversy will lie."
With regards to the stipulation of 18 months of stability in the preferred sex clause, Carson said the requirement is reasonable given the external circumstances that likely drove the decision.
"It doesn't have any basis in science," he told Bloomberg, explaining that experts have suggested that six months is enough. "But as a compromise among competing interests and perhaps to err on the side of caution, 18 months was what people came around to. And that's a reasonable position and defensible."
The Department of Defense is also studying the issue.