The U.S. Air Force is becoming more progressive as it inches its way towards a more permissive approach to gender dysphoria.
On Thursday, the Air Force announced that for enlisted airmen, there is no grounds for discharge for anyone with gender dysphoria or who identifies as transgender.
The only grounds for dismissal would be if his or her condition interfered with their potential deployment or performance while on active duty.
“Identification as transgender, absent a record of poor duty performance, misconduct, or a medically disqualifying condition, is not a basis for involuntary separation,” the Air Force said in a statement.
This statement marks the most progressive language yet from Air Force officials. In addition to the new policy, according to senior Air Force official Daniel Sitterly, any move to discharge a transgender service member will now be taken by the central air force review board. This will improve consistency across all commands.
While the move is progressive, the Pentagon still has official instructions to military recruiters that tell them to reject anyone with a “history of major abnormalities or defects of the genitalia including but not limited to change of sex”.
This dismissive approach saw American armed forces rank just 40th out of 103 in a global league table of militaries and their inclusion of LGBT service members.
The armed forces of countries such as Australia, Canada, Germany and the UK all allow transgenders to serve openly.
Sparta, a group of serving and former LBGT armed forces members, said it was aware of four or five current transgender service members who have been allowed to continue serving by supportive commanders.
“We are aware of some instances where a transgender service member has quietly been allowed to transition with the support of their commanders, although that hasn’t necessarily been shared all the way up the chain of command,” said Sue Fulton, Sparta’s president.
While progress is slowly being made, the confusion about the military’s policy towards transgender service members shows no sign of getting more clear in the foreseeable future.
Lieutenant commander Nate Christensen, a Pentagon spokesman, confirmed to reporters that there are no large-scale plans to review such policies in the near future.