A Trans Service Member Explains Why the Mattis Policy Absolutely Is a Trans Military Ban

With the last of the injunctions against the Trump Administration’s transgender military ban lifted, the Department of Defense has moved forward with implementing the new policy. As of April 12th, only a handful of American service members will be allowed to serve openly and in their correct gender.

The Department of Defense has been claiming this is not actually a ban on transgender service members. Their justification is that trans service members can say they are trans. They simply must be willing to serve as the gender they were assigned at birth. When the Mattis Policy goes into effect, trans service members will not be able to be diagnosed with gender dysphoria or seek any transition-related medical treatment and still serve. Trans service members who seek to actively transition, to live as the gender they truly are instead of the gender they were assigned at birth, will be administratively separated from the military.

Established medical standards hold that transition is the correct and medically necessary treatment for those diagnosed with gender dysphoria. Chapter 55 of US. Code Title 10, which provides for the establishment of the Armed Forces, requires the military to provide service members with all medically necessary care.

Those trans folks already serving before the Mattis Policy goes into effect will be exempt from it. They (we) will be able to receive all transition-related care approved as part of their individual treatment plans, provided they were diagnosed with gender dysphoria prior to April 12th. They will still fall under the standards for their gender as recorded in DEERS, the military personnel system. For those who have already completed their gender marker change in DEERS, they will be able to serve openly in their correct gender. Those who have not will be able to request Exceptions To Policy in order to follow uniform or physical fitness standards for their correct gender. Whether anyone who hasn’t completed a gender marker change prior to April 12th will still be able to is not yet completely clear.

Trans folks who wish to join the military will be permitted to do so, provided they are willing to serve in the gender they were assigned at birth. However, if they have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria and/or sought any form of treatment for it, they will require a medical waiver, with a medical provider affirming that they have been “stable” for eighteen months. In the language of the policy, “stable” means an absence of “clinically significant” distress or impairment. Newly-joined trans service members still will be unable to pursue any transition-related treatment; if they do, they will be subject to administrative separation.

This applies to enlisted trans service members who seek to become commissioned officers, including those who are otherwise exempt from the policy. Enlisted trans folks who would otherwise qualify for a commissioning program will be unable to apply without a medical waiver for gender dysphoria, under the same conditions as a brand-new service member. How likely such a waiver is to be approved is not yet completely clear.

The language of the Mattis Policy does include gender identity as a protected category under the military’s Equal Opportunity program. So there’s that.

In effect, the Mattis Policy is “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell II: This Time As Farce.” On April 12th, trans service members will still be able to serve openly as trans folks … so long as they don’t try to serve openly as trans folks.

Totally not a ban.

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Vivian Valentine

Vivian Valentine is a rad trans lady who loves to read, write and have silly arguments about the X-Men. She came into girlhood late and has been making up for lost time ever since. She’s happy now and hopes you are, too. You can find her fiction writing at her Patreon!

Vivian has written 2 articles for us.


  1. Thank you for this. Much like the original DADT, this policy is in direct contradiction to core military values (thinking Integrity, Respect, and Personal Courage for the Army) and makes it impossible for affected service members to both serve and be mentally, emotionally, and physically healthy. It’s so shitty.

  2. Thanks Vivian for your great writing style and the clarity you’ve provided on this important issue.

  3. Thanks for writing this. Clarifies a lot. Hopefully the policy will be temporary—limited to the Trump admin.

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