U.S. military ends trans ban

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter addresses reporters at the Pentagon. REUTERS

The Pentagon today ended its ban on transgender people serving in the U.S. military. The historic announcement formally removes some of the risks faced by an estimated thousands of U.S. troops, who could have been expelled from the armed forces because of their gender identity. Trans people who serve in the armed forces still have harassment, sexual violence, physical assault, and prejudice to face, but the hatred and sickness no longer has a Pentagon directive to hid behind.

"We're eliminating policies that can result in transgender members being treated differently from their peers based solely upon their gender identity rather than upon their ability to serve," Defense Secretary Ash Carter told reporters Thursday.

Within 90 days, he added, the Pentagon will create a guide book for commanders to help them understand how to lead transgender service members. The Pentagon will also provide medical guidance to doctors who are obligated to support the uniqie medical and mental health needs of trans men and women.

Within a year, said Carter, openly transgender persons will be permitted to join the armed forces.

From Reuters:

The repeal, which ends one of the last barriers to serving in the military, comes after a 2011 decision to end the U.S. military's ban on openly gay and lesbian people serving, despite concerns - which proved unfounded - that such a move could be too great a burden in wartime and would undermine battle readiness. (..)

Carter said that based on a study carried out by the Rand Corporation, there were about 2,500 transgender active-duty servicemembers and 1,500 reserve transgender service members. Still, Rand's figures were within a range, which at the upper end reached 7,000 active duty forces and 4,000 reserves.

"The reality is that we have transgender service members serving in uniform today," Carter said, acknowledging the policy change will have implications for issues including deployment and medical treatment.

He added that at least 18 countries already allowed transgender personnel to serve openly in their militaries.

Related coverage: "Transgender People Will Be Allowed to Serve Openly in Military" [nytimes.com]