On July 1, 2016, without any systematic study of the consequences, the Obama administration reversed longstanding policies that excluded those who identify as transgender from serving in the U.S. military on both psychological and medical grounds.[i] As of that date, the armed services stopped discharging existing service members who suffer from gender dysphoria (unhappiness with their biological sex at birth) or who seek gender reassignment surgery, and as of October 1, 2016, began providing medical services to aid in their “transition” to living as the opposite gender.
Phase 2 of this policy—allowing persons who identify as transgender to join the military—was scheduled to take effect on July 1, 2017. Just hours before this deadline, the Department of Defense announced a six-month delay in implementation of this policy.[ii] On July 13, 2017, Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which would prohibit the military from paying for gender reassignment surgery or hormone therapy for service members,[iii] but the amendment was narrowly defeated, 209-214, with 24 Republicans joining the opposition.[iv] However, the Trump administration still has the power to reverse Phase 1 and/or permanently foreclose implementation of Phase 2 of the Obama policy.
[i] “Department of Defense Press Briefing by Secretary Carter on Transgender Service Policies,” June 30, 2016;
[ii] “More time allowed for review of new transgender enlistments,” Fox News, July 1, 2017, accessed July 24, 2017,
[iii] Richard Lardner, “House rejects attempt to ban transgender surgery for troops,” Associated Press, July 13, 2017, accessed July 24, 2017,