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Air Force releases guidelines for transgender Airmen

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The Air Force's new guidelines for trans service members, released at the beginning of October, address many points, including what the process will be like for Airmen wishing to transition, as well as day-to-day aspects like uniforms and housing and the process for educating commanders and Airmen.

According to the Oct. 6th memo, the Air Force deals with every transgender Airman's case on an individual level, and commanders work with that person to determine a Gender Transition Plan.

The guidelines say transgender Airmen will typically have to use the lodging, bathrooms and uniform of their current gender while they are transitioning, as well as meet the physical test standards of their current gender. Once their transition process is complete, their gender marker is changed in the military’s data system, and they can use the facilities that match their preferred gender. They are also then required to the meet the physical standards for their preferred gender.

Transgender service members will still be able to deploy, as long as they meet the medical requirements.

And while it sounds complicated to some, Maj. Travis Russell with the 341st Medical Group  said it’s all about providing support for those airmen.

“We have already had some individuals come out to their units, and they got excellent support from their units, they got great support from their commanders," Maj.  Russell said. "We care about these people, they care about them.”

Major Russell says while an Airman is transitioning, Malmstrom provides local experts who work with the Airman. They can also receive medical care for transitioning at the Air Force’s Center of Excellence in Texas.

The memo also provides conditions under which transgender people can join the Air Force.

While the guidelines are thorough, the Air Force admits  these types of situations can be difficult, but it warns discrimination and bias will not be tolerated. 

"We rely on the inclusion of a diverse group of people from all backgrounds, experiences, demographics, perspectives and their skills," Equal Opportunity director Joshua Bargas said.  

When asked how he thought Airmen will react to the new policies, Bargas said he can't answer that question right now.

But he did say the training for all Airmen is in the developmental stage, and they are ready to implement that education as soon as they receive it, which should be sometime in 2017.

It's impossible to determine  exactly how many transgender Airmen currently serve in the U.S. military.

The Air Force doesn't track the number of transgender service members, and even if they did, releasing those numbers would be a HIPAA violation.

But the National Center for Transgender Equality estimates over 15,000 trans people serve in the military today.

Read the full memo here.