It Took One Day for the Trump Ban to Start Harming Transgender Americans

by Palm Center | April 19, 2019

Map Pesquiera is a UT Austin ROTC student who is the first known casualty of Trump’s transgender ban. The Pentagon promised that the ban would not hurt transgender Americans who are already serving in the military or in officer training programs. It took one day for this baseless assertion to be exposed as a falsehood.

As we explain below, no one in this story fully understood the grandfathering provision, not the cadet and not the DOD people he was talking to.  The ROTC situation has a poor fit with the requirements for “grandfathering,” and so this result will repeat. It’s hard to tell whether it was intended or someone didn’t think it through.  Under DTM 19-004, ROTC scholarship people should normally be “exempt,” because they have been “selected for entrance into an officer commissioning program through a selection board or similar process.”

DTM 19-004 (the regulation that codifies the transgender ban) grandfathers people in officer training if 1) they qualified for entry under Carter policy post-transition; or 2) they received a GD diagnosis after entry, “as a service member,” from a military medical provider by April 12.  ROTC people are really unlikely to qualify under the first option, just because of age. Teenage applicants are unlikely to transition and then have 18 months of stability prior to college entry. Same thing with academy applicants. But if someone was going to be grandfathered under option 2, they needed to work through the military medical system and get confirmation of GD diagnosis through military medical channels by April 12.

ROTC had probably the most ambiguous guidance in DODI 1300.28 (Carter policy).  It clearly contemplated that cadets could transition, but falls back entirely on existing, general standards for retention in ROTC.  Most importantly, it does not explain how cadets are supposed to obtain approval for a gender transition plan, or what mechanism there might be for changing gender marker in a way that the military would recognize for officer accession in the future.  ROTC cadets are the most “civilian” of any potentially grandfathered persons, and DODI 1300.28 did not explain how they were supposed to access a military process for approving or confirming a civilian transition plan, or civilian gender marker change.

So all these ROTC people who did not obtain military confirmation of a GD diagnosis will get caught short by the specifics of the grandfather policy, which is based on getting that military medical confirmation.  It wasn’t clear how to get a confirmation, or even if they could or should do that during their ROTC enrollment.

The bottom line is that the grandfathering procedure was written in a way that provided no guidance or practical access to ROTC cadets.  So despite DOD’s explicit promise to protect people already in officer training, it is unlikely that transgender ROTC cadets will qualify for grandfathering.  And because they are not “exempt” under the ban, they cannot qualify for accession, and so they will be expelled from ROTC.

Here’s a long clip from a media report which tells the individual story:


In high school, Pesquiera began hormone therapy and legally switched his name as well as his gender pronouns.

. . .

At the time he applied for the ROTC scholarship, he applied under his biological gender and the name he was given at birth. He began taking hormones just before he was accepted into UT and just before he was awarded the ROTC scholarship his senior year of high school.

. . .

After receiving the scholarship, he was assigned to an advisor within the Department of Defense, someone who Pesqueria said was tasked with assisting transgender individuals in the ROTC program. Pesquiera said he never anticipated that Trump’s policy for transgender military members would actually go into effect, but he started to get worried when the policy went before the Supreme Court.

Though the DOD has said that, “all those most immediately affected by the update have the information they need about the policy,” Pesquiera said he had to reach out to his Department of Defense contacts to receive more information about what would happen next.

He recalls in mid-March contacting his DOD advisor who responded back by emailing him a four-page fact sheet on which applicants could still serve under the new policy. That was the first time Pesqueria had been informed when the new policy would go into effect.

At that time Pesqueria had just completed what’s known as “top surgery,” a procedure to help him transition into a more male physique. He was caught up in the recovery process and didn’t thoroughly read the fact-sheet until April.

“It wasn’t until later I realized even if I try to get medically qualified for the Department of Defense, which is required to get contracted [by the military], I won’t be able to because there’s not enough time between now and April 12,” Pesqueira said.

He believes the process of getting medically qualified would take him months, there just wasn’t enough time at that point. Which meant he would not have a chance of being grandfathered in under the old rules.

A simple chart in the fact sheet laid out for Pesquiera that under the new policy, applicants like him with a history of medical transition treatment would be “presumptively disqualified” from serving in the military.

“That’s when I started to realize they are not accepting or wavering in officer candidates, ROTC cadets and I’d be subject to this policy,”

Pesqueria believed this meant he would be left under the rules of the new policy and feared it would force him to serve in a military that wouldn’t recognize his preferred gender. So he emailed his ROTC advisors at UT and at the DOD, asking if there is a way to cancel his scholarship on April 8.

“I understand that those who are not medically qualified by this Friday will be held to the new standard of the policy and since I am already well into my transition, I believe I would be disqualified anyway because of this,”  he wrote.

That same day, his DOD advisor replied back in an email that started off saying, “I’m sorry things turned out the way they did,” and directing Pesquiera to talk with his UT advisor about his scholarship questions. His DOD advisor confirmed, that yes Pesquiera would be medically disqualified under the new standards on April 12.

But the advisor acknowledged he did not know what criteria and processing will be used in considering army waivers for transgender applicants, he promised to follow up with more information.

The advisor finished his email with, “it has been an honor and a privilege to have worked with you on this journey since 6 Apr 2018:)”.

“Pretty much it felt like he left me in a dark room, turned off the light, closed the door, and left me high and dry,” Pesquiera recalled of his advisor’s response.

Pesquiera said he has not heard from his DOD advisor since. Nor has he reached out to the DOD for more clarification, he still hopes to serve in the military and doesn’t want to jeopardize his future chances. But he understood that email on April 8 and his advisor’s tone to mean that past April 12, he would no longer qualify for his scholarship or to serve in the military.


The bottom line, again, is that the grandfathering procedure was written in a way that provided no guidance or practical access to ROTC cadets.  So despite DOD’s explicit promise to protect people already in officer training, it is unlikely that transgender ROTC cadets will qualify for grandfathering.  And because they are not “exempt” under the ban, they cannot qualify for accession, and so they will be expelled from ROTC. It took one day for the Pentagon’s baseless promise that the ban would not hurt transgender Americans already in military service to be exposed as a falsehood.

Another report with some specific names of DOD representatives involved: