On October 6, the Secretary of the Air Force and Chief of Staff of the Air Force released guidelines on how transgender Airmen can transition – while staying in the Air Force.
The new policy comes less than three months after Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced that transgender troops will be able to openly serve in the US military.
Policy at the DoD level includes the provision of transitional 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 that transitional surgery is a medical necessity, like any other treatment. In the Air Force, the unit commander closest to the Airman holds all the keys to transitioning into the USAF, including requests for surgery, uniform and PT exemptions, and the needs of deployment.
The gender used in the aviator’s personnel file will determine which gender regulations and facilities to use, meaning that until the transition is complete, transgender aviators will continue to use their gender from birth.
They are still deployable as long as they are medically qualified.
After being diagnosed with a medical need, the airman will inform his unit commander. The commander has 90 days to respond to the request. The commander, airman and medics will establish a timeline for a transition plan that takes into account operational needs, morale and readiness.
The transition is complete (in the eyes of the Air Force) when medical personnel notify the Airman’s Unit Commander and the Airman provides legal documentation (such as a birth certificate and passport placed updated) reflecting the change.
Dress and uniform appearance requirements will respect the gender reflected in their personal file. Any exceptions to policy requests regarding the wearing of uniform during transition must be notified in writing to its immediate commanding officer.
Transgender applicants who wish to join the military will still need to meet all fitness standards for their branch, gender, age, and MOS. They will use the facilities for the gender marker in their personal file. They may be exempt from fitness assessments during the transition plan period, but must still participate in the PT unit.
A history of gender dysphoria, transitional surgery, or hormone therapy is always a disqualifying factor from joining the military, unless the recruit has been stable in their new gender for at least 18 months. A doctor must confirm the gender stability of the recruit.
Military policy protects transgender aviators from discrimination through their office of basic equal opportunity – protection that is not available to transgender Americans in most states.