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Navy Says Transgenders Must Meet Physical Standards

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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The Navy released new guidance Monday detailing how transgenders are supposed to be handled in the service, namely what fitness standards apply and how the whole transition process works.

Beginning Oct. 1, sailors were allowed to start the process of transitioning, and now a 12-page handbook will make it clearer how that transition will be handled.

Navy officials want to make sure the rest of the service is prepared to handle any influx of transgenders, and so starting in November, U.S. Fleet Forces Command will train sailors on how to interact with and treat transgenders. The goal is to complete force-wide training by Jan. 31, 2017.

“All personnel will continue to treat each other with dignity and respect,” the new Navy transgender guidance policy states. “There is zero tolerance for harassing, hazing, or bullying in any form.”

Once that training is complete, transgenders can start entering the Navy by July 1, 2017.

Similar to the Air Force, sailors must receive a diagnosis from a doctor that a transition is medically necessary. There must be a transition plan approved by the sailor’s commander.

Sailors can start acting as the other gender before their gender marker is changed in the system, but this must occur during off-duty hours. And for sailors, this is particularly relevant, since when they’re deployed aboard a ship, all areas of the ship are considered on-duty.

Perhaps one of the most important questions is what standards apply to transgenders. The answer is simple: Transgenders will have to complete the physical fitness requirements of their newly selected gender as soon as they transition.

But there are still some ways commanders can intervene if transitioning sailors have a difficult time with standards.

“If a Sailor or Marine is unable to meet standards or requires an exception to policy (ETP) during a period of gender transition, all applicable tools, including those described in references (a) through (d), will be available to Commanders and Commanding Officers to minimize impacts to the mission and unit readiness,” the guidance states.

For example, commanders can adjust the transition date or advise of potential extended leave options. Sailors or Marines might also have the chance to transfer to “another organization, command, location, or duty status (e.g. Individual Ready Reserve), as appropriate, during the transition process.”

Commanders can also file for ETPs related to physical appearance or body composition.

Still, given physiological differences between men and women, a man transitioning to a woman will likely not have as difficult a time completing physical fitness requirements.

How infrequently or frequently commanders will rely on the ETP or other tools remains to be seen, but a similar device also applies to other problems a transgender may have faced in the past.

For example, the guidance states that in normal cases, a history of gender dysphoria disqualifies a transgender from joining the Navy “unless, as certified by a licensed medical provider, the applicant has been stable without clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning for 18 months.”

But of course, the guidance permits a waiver to be filed with the assistant secretary of the Navy, who can then waive the 18-month period in whole or in part.

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