KTEP - El Paso, Texas

Pentagon To Implement Restrictions On Transgender Recruits

Mar 14, 2019
Originally published on March 14, 2019 5:12 am
Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Alivia Stehlik has had quite a run in the Army - West Point grad, platoon leader, infantry officer, captain, physical therapist in Afghanistan. She started her service more than a decade ago as a man, and now it is unclear whether people like her will be allowed to follow her path. The Pentagon announced late Tuesday that transgender people can still serve, as long as they adhere to their biological sex. Capt. Stehlik joins us from her home near Fort Carson, in Colorado Springs.

Captain, thanks for coming on the program.

ALIVIA STEHLIK: You're welcome. Thank you for having me.

GREENE: So as I understand, you began your transition in 2016. And I know a lot of this policy and whether it applies depends on where someone is in that process. Does this policy apply to you?

STEHLIK: Well, so any policy that the DOD implements is going to apply to me as a member of the DOD. I think, specifically, I'll be part of the so-called grandfather clause here and be, quote-unquote, "OK" as we move forward. And so maybe not in the specific sense, but I think it applies in general that any time you put a policy in place that affects a specific group of people, i.e. transgender people in this case, it's going to affect me, whether directly or because of the implications and the intention behind it.

GREENE: Well, one of the things this policy talks about is that if recruits who identify as transgender have to use uniforms, pronouns, bathroom facilities based on their biological sex - I mean, when you say you're grandfathered, are you free to serve as a woman, as you, or are you going to face new restrictions on things like that?

STEHLIK: No. So as the policy is currently written, I will be allowed to serve as a woman, as myself. But again, two years ago, we thought that all trans people coming into the military or already in the military or transitioning would also have that same freedom, and now that has been kind of walked back with this policy. So I think it's still - you know, right now the policy says that, but it's uncertain.

GREENE: What will the experience be like for people who are - will be facing those restrictions and told that they have to use facilities and wear uniforms based on their biological sex?

STEHLIK: You know, so I'm a physical therapist - you mentioned that - and I like to think of it as, it's like if you were to send somebody, as a medical provider, as a doctor, to your physical therapist or to a surgeon and say, I want you to evaluate this person. And I, as a physical therapist, or a surgeon were to say, well, I think that you need surgery or I think that you need physical therapy, and after that you'll be good to go and you'll be good to serve, but the rules say that we can't actually let you do that, we can't have you have surgery, or we can't treat you. So you can stay as long as you don't actually need to be taken care of, which, it just doesn't make sense.

GREENE: One of the arguments that the Pentagon is making is that if you have a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, which is the feeling that birth identity does not match gender identity, I mean, they say that that's a serious mental condition similar to other conditions that might prevent you from serving. Do they have an argument, in your mind?

STEHLIK: So I think there's a couple of things there. One is that that was kind of the words that were used when we testified before Congress a couple weeks ago. The DOD folks that testified talked about that. But when you read the new policy, it actually says that you can have a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, and that's not disqualifying. It's if you actually need treatment for said diagnosis. Which, again, is this kind of bizarre, to me, gray area where we're now putting medical providers in this place where they have to make a decision about, well, I can say you have gender dysphoria, but if I have to treat you for it then you have to get out of the Army, which just doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

GREENE: You say that, you know, you feel a part of this policy because you're part of the trans community. What is the future like for this community in the military after - if this policy goes into effect?

STEHLIK: So I think that one day this won't be a question, right? That's why we continue to fight this fight. One day, there will be no question about whether or not trans people can serve. And I think - you know, I just got back from Afghanistan. There is already no question about whether we can serve with distinction in all areas of the world, in all austere environments. But in the meantime, it's going to be a struggle for us to continue. We're going to continue to fight this fight to allow everyone to be able to serve openly.

GREENE: Capt. Alivia Stehlik, thanks so much for joining us this morning.

STEHLIK: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.