By Elaine Donnelly
STARRS Board of Advisors
The nation is worried about serious national security threats, including Chinese spy aircraft, but the Department of Defense seems pre-occupied with misplaced priorities. “Woke” policies are taking progressive ideologies to extremes with enforced compliance, even if it hurts the institution.
Since January 2021, Defense Department officials have expanded woke transgender mandates in significant ways. A comprehensive CMR Policy Analysis titled Biden Pentagon Quietly Expands Woke Transgender Policies in the Military, summarized here, compares Joe Biden/Lloyd Austin directives to the 2016 transgender policies of Barack Obama and Ashton Carter.
As in the Obama years, the Biden/Austin policy fully embraces the idea that individuals can change their “sex assigned at birth to a different gender role.” Department of Defense Instruction 1300.28, updated on December 20, 2022, has changed the official vocabulary of this pseudo-science, using the phrase “self-identified gender” instead of “preferred gender” throughout.
The DoD Instruction stipulates that if a person “self-identifies” as a person of the opposite sex, and if the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) changes a person’s bureaucratic “gender marker,” a man claiming to be a woman must be treated as a woman, and vice versa.
Military commanders, doctors and nurses, chaplains, and military men and women at all levels must endorse and act on this ideological belief or suffer career penalties if they don’t. Alleged “biases against transgender individuals,” which are prohibited, could include anything from “misgendering” people with the wrong pronouns to expressions of concern about medically questionable hormone treatments or surgeries for adults or military dependent children.
Individuals who are confused about gender identity deserve compassionate counseling, competent medical care, and complete information about serious risks and irreversible consequences of “gender affirming” treatments that do not change biological sex. Instead, a self-diagnosis of gender dysphoria permits only one course of treatment, pushing the servicemember toward life-changing, often-irreversible transgender “transition,” without an independent “second opinion.”
Commanders are directed to consult with designated “experts,” called Service Central Coordination Cells. The SCCCs have no responsibility for military operations or any obligation to put the needs of the patient first.
Biden’s regulations do not protect or even mention rights of religious liberty for chaplains and people of faith. Nor do they provide options for doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel who object to transgender ideology on moral or ethical grounds.
Once a military doctor approves, transgender transition can be deemed “complete” with or without surgical alteration of healthy body parts. At that point, as the DoD Instruction states several times: “[S]ervice members will use those berthing, bathroom, and shower facilities associated with their gender marker in DEERS.”
This policy denies human biological realities and violates minimal expectations of personal privacy and modesty between men and women. Human dilemmas are discussed in PowerPoint training slide “vignettes,” such as a “female to male” soldier announcing a pregnancy.
Vignette 8 portrays a soldier transitioned from male to female, without “sex-reassignment surgery,” who wants to use female-designated showers. Another scenario describes a female soldier who is experiencing tension with a “transgender female” roommate.
This is a trick question, since both the discomforted female soldier and a commander who tries to find a solution likely would be accused of “biases against transgender individuals.” Why should a tank commander at Fort Hood have to deal with pronoun etiquette and sticky scenarios instead of training his troops to fight an enemy force?
The latest DoD Instruction admits that some service members who have “completed a gender transition” may not have “resolved the gender dysphoria.” Without any estimate of costs or consequences, additional medical procedures are authorized “If a return to their previous gender is medically required.”
Biden/Austin directives specifically involve the military service academies and ROTC (contract) programs, inviting controversies like those affecting civilian female athletes who have lost competitions against biological men.
Revised rules also permit cross-dressing and other “transitioning” behaviors while in “on-duty status.” Previously, time off for “real life experience” (RLE) living as a person of the opposite sex could only occur off-base and off-duty, often for weeks or months.
Whether intended or not, the revised policy’s approval of on-base cross-dressing likely will increase “LGBT Pride” celebrations featuring drag queen performances and “family friendly” story hours for children at military bases worldwide.
When problems ensue, how will we know? In 2018, then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis testified that problems with transgender policies were not being reported up the chain of command because they were considered “personal and private.”
Doubling down in December 2022, the DoD released a new instruction, DoDI 6400.11, which restricts (without high-level permission) release of information about “sexual orientation,” “gender identity,” “transgender-related information,” and “incidents of harmful behaviors.”
Every year, the Pentagon releases non-personal statistics on sexual assaults, in excruciating detail. Why are officials restricting access to data on “incidents of harmful behaviors” and “transgender-related information.” Congress needs to find out.
A recent independent, high-tech survey on politicization of the military done by the Heritage Foundation found that among active-duty respondents, 80% said the “changing of policy to allow unrestricted service by transgender individuals” has decreased their trust in the military.
Sixty-eight percent of active-duty responses reported seeing a “growing politicization,” which is affecting their decision to encourage their children to join the military.
In view of recruiting problems, the 118th Congress should renew previous demands for information on woke policies. Congress also should consider mandating that all Defense Department agencies and educational institutions return to recognizing scientific realities of biological sex, not “self-identified gender.”
That idea and more are incorporated in legislation just proposed by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Rep. James Banks (R-IN), called the Ensuring Military Readiness Act of 2023.
Servicemen and women deserve reality-based health care programs, with protection of the rights of doctors and nurses whose medical ethics or religious convictions differ from transgender ideology. Women also deserve separate-sex athletic teams and reasonable privacy in female-only living facilities.
White House and Pentagon leaders who try to deny, dissemble, or withhold information on the existence or results of woke policies in the military are undermining their own credibility. Americans are awake and aware, and they will hold lawmakers accountable for woke-ism that weakens our military in an increasingly dangerous world.
Elaine Donnelly is the founder and president of the Center for Military Readiness. CMR is an independent, non-partisan, public policy organization, founded in 1993, which reports on and analyzes military/social issues. More information is available at www.cmrlink.org.