A Department of Defense (DOD) policy incorporating “gender neutral” language into award citations will be amended to clarify that it does not ban using “himself” or “herself,” a defense official told the Daily Caller News Foundation on Tuesday.
The DCNF previously reported that the end-of-tour award for Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, would use “gender-specific” pronouns despite a DOD Aug. 7 policy update incorporating the gender-neutral “themself” into opening sentences for award citations. The Pentagon will now update the Manual of Military Decorations and Awards with a “clarifying comment” to ensure joint award citations can use gendered pronouns, the official said.
“The change in the DoD Manual was not intended to restrict use of the citation pronouns. However, in order to avoid confusion in the future, we are adding a clarifying comment that ‘themselves’ can be replaced with ‘himself’ or ‘herself’ as appropriate,” the DOD official told the DCNF on Tuesday.
“The Department will ensure this nuance is reflected in the DoD [Manual],” the official said, but did not respond to a question about a timeline for the update.
The official referred the DCNF to Executive Order 14085, issued by President Joe Biden in October, which updated the language on several prior orders that established the various awards covered in the DOD’s joint awards policy.
Since most of those orders described prospective award recipients as “he,” EO 14085 required the wording to include gender-neutral terms because many award descriptions were written prior to women’s integration into the armed forces, the officials said. However, that executive order also replaced several instances in orders where “himself or herself” was used with “themselves.”
Changes in the joint awards manual “were intended to reflect” that order.
Last Friday, however, when asked about the update, a defense spokesperson told the DCNF that the manual’s Aug. 7 update “incorporates gender-neutral language in Joint award citations.” Citations are composed individually for each award recipient and included in the full recommendation package, the manual shows.
“The Department consistently updates/changes policy issuances in order to remain in compliance with law, regulations and other policies. Should this issuance require additional updates from the August 7, 2023 change, the Department will follow the same process to update or change the issuance as required,” the spokesperson added.
Milley’s award citation, however, includes pronouns appropriate to his gender and would be processed for a final sign-off using that language, a spokesperson for the chairman told the DCNF on Sept. 5.
“General Milley’s award recommendation includes gender specific pronouns. The award recommendation will be processed for approval containing gender specific language,” Col. Dave Butler, a spokesperson for Milley, told the DCNF.
As of Tuesday, Milley’s award certificate has been approved but not presented, Butler confirmed to the DCNF. Both the award citation and the certificate use male pronouns.
“Themself” is a “non-standard” pronoun “now used chiefly in place of ‘himself or herself’ as a gender-neutral reflexive form of they when the reference is to a single person,” according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
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