The Marine Corps has issued service-specific rules for allowing transgender troops to serve in uniform, publishing guidance on transgender service for individual Marines as well as implementation rules for unit commanders.

"No otherwise qualified Marine may be separated, discharged, or denied re-enlistment or continuation solely on the basis of their gender identity," wrote Lt. Gen Mark Brilakis, the Deputy Commandant for Manpower and Reserve Affairs wrote in Marine Corps Bulletin 1121. 

"All Marines will continue to treat each other with dignity and respect. There is zero tolerance for harassing, hazing, or bullying in any form."

The Corps' guidance comes one month after Navy Secretary Ray Mabus outlined the overall Department of the Navy rules in Secretary of the Navy Instruction 1000.11.

The Navy and Marine Corps will begin the recruiting of "otherwise qualified" transgender sailors and Marines no later than July 1, 2017, Mabus wrote in the instruction. Effective immediately, both services will allow transgender service from those already in the ranks.

The Corps' new rules apply to Marines and sailors serving in units under Marine Corps leadership.


To make sure all the new rules are crystal clear for Marine leadership, mobile training teams will visit bases Corps-wide starting in January to give training targeted to "lieutenant colonel and above commanders, their senior enlisted advisors, and command surgeons," according to MarAdmin 631/16.

As with the other military services, the Corps will now officially identify a service member's gender by what is being called the "gender marker" indicated in the Marine Corps Total Force System and the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System, according to the bulletin.

That marker determines which uniforms and grooming standards apply to a sailor or Marine, as well as which physical fitness standards they'll have to meet. It also determines whether they'll use male or female shower facilities, bathrooms and berthing.

Changing that marker in the system is now possible, but only once the transition is totally complete. The bulletin says it's up to the Marine or sailor to get "legal documentation which indicates your preferred gender."

Only a certified true copy of a state birth certificate, certified true copy of court order or U.S. passport will qualify as documentation.

Once the gender marker is changed in DEERS, the service member will be recognized in the preferred gender and held to preferred gender standards from that point forward.

This administrative change has been possible since Oct. 1, when the Defense Department officially sanctioned transgender transition for military members.

"The DoD's transgender service policy requires a service member's medical care be brought into the military health system and establishes a structured process whereby they may transition gender when medically necessary," said Maj. Garron J. Garn, spokesman for the Marine Corps Manpower and Reserve Affairs.

To start the process in the Corps, service members must, with their military medical provider's help, "develop a medical treatment plan which will include all medically necessary treatment, projected schedule of the treatment, potential periods of limited duty or nondeployability, and estimated date for changing the gender marker in MCTFS," the bulletin states.

That plan is submitted to the member's commanding officer for approval. The Department of the Navy's rules state that transition medical treatment will differ for each service member and could include "behavioral health counseling, cross-sex hormone therapy, surgery, and real-life experience."

But that CO has some options designed to ensure their unit's readiness, too.

The bulletin directs commanders to "approve the timing of a medical treatment plan based on your unit's deployment, operational, training, and exercise schedules and critical skills availability." The approval to the Marine or sailor must come within 90 days of it hitting the CO's desk.

"If the unit's mission requirements require a delay in executing the treatment plan, and there is a medical urgency in receiving the medical treatment, the treatment plan shall be reviewed by the first general officer in the chain of command."

In addition, the guidance also allows COs to "delay non-urgent medical treatment, including gender transition, for deployed Marines until redeployed to the permanent duty station." This includes Marines embarked on, or assigned to, Navy ships.

Timing is also important for initial entry Marines — those who are still in their training pipeline — and though they can still seek treatment, there could be snags in their service, the bulletin says. "Marines are subject to separation in an entry-level status if medical treatment impairs the Marine's ability to complete the training," according to the bulletin.

Discharge could also arise as an option for Marines already in the fleet, too, if their "ability to serve is adversely affected by a medical condition or medical treatment," including gender transition, the bulletin said.

But, the bulletin continued, Marines will be evaluated just the same as if they had any other medical condition.

The DOD transgender handbook will be used in the Marine Corps training program and the message also encourages those getting the document and reviewing it in advance.

It's not clear how many Marines might seek training, and the Corps says that they're not tracking numbers of requests as a matter of privacy to service members. 

"Therefore, the Marine Corps does not track transition requests," Maj. Garn said. "We are aware of a handful of Marines who have come forward seeking medical care and there is the potential that there are others currently going through the process with their chain of command who have not requested guidance from Headquarters Marine Corps."