“The prevalence of gender dysphoria is 0.005-0.014% for males and 0.002-0.003% for females in the US.”1 However, according to the Williams Institute, 1.4% of 13-17-year-olds identify as transgender.2 Gender dysphoria is not new and is a legitimate medical condition. The real incidence is difficult to quantify due to political debate and social media amplification of sympathy for the issue. The background incidence long known in the behavioral health community is a more believable figure. A nearly 300 times increased incidence in adolescents is a frightening data point. This mismatch of numbers indicates a high likelihood the vast majority of the 1.4% figure doesn’t actually have dysphoria. For the military population, that gap is problematic.
Personal space and privacy are not a high priority in the military due to its inherent mission. Group showers, open bays, large open-style bathrooms, and lack of privacy in the field are norms of the profession. Needless to say, modesty is not a reasonable expectation in many units in the military.
Beginning in 2016, the military began to allow transgender soldiers to serve in the military. In 2022, training and accommodation plans accelerated. The military is ramping up its harassment policies and training. From pronoun training to new protocols for active-duty gender affirmation, the Department of Defense is very active with accommodations for this specific community. One Army briefing is hosted on YouTube. The link is in the references below.3
The Army policy, as briefed, contains 2 concerning components. First, the briefing states, “The care required to transition is individualized and often does not include surgical treatment.” Second, the briefing states, “Some individuals prefer that no one knows they are transitioning, while others may want to discuss it openly.” Combined, this means soldiers with male genitalia can covertly discuss their plan with the commander and medical providers. Then, the soldier gets placed in barracks with soldiers that have female genitalia (women). Women are not allowed to ask if their new roommate who has male genitalia is transitioning unless the ‘transgender soldier’ permits. This opens the door for abuse of policy where non-transgender males choose to reside in female barracks or for non-transgender males to pretend to desire to transition. This can be traumatizing to many women that have been victims of sexual assault and have no say about a new roommate or shower mate that has male genitalia. Women who ask for confirmation of the new soldiers’ intentions can be prosecuted for harassment. There have been multiple instances in the past 2 years of ‘gender fluid’ individuals with male genitalia sexually assaulting women in traditionally female spaces.
The simple and obvious solution is to not allow soldiers to occupy showers, barracks rooms, or any other intimate spaces until they have surgically had their genitalia permanently altered to the identified form. This demonstrates intention and conviction to follow through with their identity plans and decreases the risk of inappropriate behavior and sexual assaults. It also allows more time for stabilization, psychologically and medically (hormone drugs).
Vignettes in the Army module don’t cover any of these contentious issues. The Army, and likely DoD in general, is moving ahead too rapidly without having thought out prudent and rational ways to integrate transgenders into the force while safeguarding female servicemembers.
3https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zzx4Na3wrA4&t=138s (Army Transgender Policy Training)