The Defense Department has stopped enforcing a policy requiring transgender youth on military bases be allowed to use bathrooms and some other facilities based on their gender identity, a move that "saddens" the former DoD official who crafted the initial policy.
It also prompted the official — Todd Weiler, the former assistant secretary of defense for manpower and reserve affairs — to express concerns about career civilian employees reversing such directives.
"It's not the job of a career civil servant to revisit the decisions of the political leadership of the previous administration," Weiler said in an interview with Military Times. "That's the job of the new political leadership. Until they get into those positions, everything needs to move forward just as it was issued previously."
Military Times learned Feb. 24 that sometime after President Obama left office in January, DoD officials quietly made the shift away from an overall policy allowing transgender youths to use restrooms, locker rooms and other facilities consistent with their gender identity at DoD schools and at at youth programs on base. Instead, principals and other officials will address concerns and identify solutions case by case, a defense official said.
Weiler, a political appointee in the Obama administration who left his job in January, wrote the memorandum Oct. 26 that spelled out the requirements allowing transgender youth to use these facilities.
Weiler issued the memorandum as the result of an incident at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, earlier in October, when a district superintendent decided not to allow an 11-year-old transgender student to use the girls’ restroom at a DoD school.
That superintendent’s decision reversed a ruling by the school’s principal who had notified parents that the teenager would begin using the girls’ restroom. The reversal would have required the student to go down three floors, leave the building and cross the courtyard to another building to use a gender-neutral restroom.
The decision to no longer enforce his memo "saddens me," Weiler said. "I hope the little girl in Germany is not being forced to use [that] restroom. Hopefully that's not what is happening. ...
"This is my problem with some of the key individuals that are sitting in there right now in ‘acting’ roles. They take personal agendas and do things that are not in keeping with the way things are supposed to function. I have no problem with the next assistant secretary making that decision. That’s what elections are about. But the acting career civil servant wasn’t elected or appointed to that role."
In May 2016, the Education and Justice departments issued guidance advising school districts to allow students who are transgender to use restroom facilities and other accommodations consistent with their gender identity. Weiler’s memo affirmed that the Defense Department would follow this guidance.
The fact that DoD has not been following that guidance since sometime in January was disclosed after the Trump administration issued guidance to public school administrators saying they would no longer have to follow the May 2016 directive. The Trump administration policy leaves it to Congress, state legislatures and local governments to adopt policies or laws addressing the public school issue.
Karen Jowers covers military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.