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Top military official explains why policy allowing openly transgender soldiers has been delayed

The plan to allow transgender recruits has been delayed another six months, with top military officials saying they need more time to study the issue. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman Gen. Paul Selva told the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday that the delay to allow transgender recruits into the military has been extended because of a scientific disagreement over whether the current protocol is actually helping those with gender dysphoria.

"I am an advocate of every qualified person who can meet the physical standards to serve in our uniformed services to be able to do so," Selva remarked. "Our decision to delay the accessions of transgender individuals into the services was largely based on a disagreement on the science of how mental health care and hormone therapy for transgender individuals would help solve the medical issues that are associated with gender dysphoria."

According to The Hill, Selva's testimony on Capitol Hill came Tuesday as he was reconfirmed as vice chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, the second highest-ranking military officer in the armed forces.

In 2016, former President Barack Obama's previous Secretary of Defense Ash Carter lifted the ban on transgender officers openly serving in the military, but left the ban on transgender recruits in place while the military implemented a one-year transition period to prepare new protocols.

Transgender recruits were originally supposed to be allowed to enlist at the beginning of July, but current Defense Secretary James Mattis extended the delay for six more months while officials continue to study the issue.

Selva explained there were still questions surrounding how the military would handle transgenders presenting as a different gender without having had gender reassignment surgery, and how it would affect things like training and physical fitness standards.

"There are a host of other issues that involve the potential physical standards, and the service chiefs asked for additional time to assess so that they can make their necessary changes to infrastructure, as well as training curriculum for our basic trainees who come in in transgender status,” Selva said, "particularly those who have not undergone gender reassignment surgery and while they present as their target gender are physiologically still in their birth gender."


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