Pentagon Lifts Ban on Transgender Military Members

Pentagon Lifts Ban on Transgender Military Members
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Transgender Americans can now openly serve in the military, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said at a press conference Thursday.

“I’m announcing today that we’re ending the ban on transgender Americans in the United States military,” Carter said. “Effective immediately, transgender Americans may serve openly, and they can no longer be discharged or otherwise separated from the military just for being transgender.”

The repeal of the ban comes five years after the September 2011 repeal of the military's “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which had prevented gay Americans from serving openly in the armed forces, and follows the January 2013 decision by the Pentagon to allow women to serve in combat.

All three decisions happened under the Obama administration and demonstrate the social change the president has brought to one of the country’s oldest institutions. 

The secretary of defense cited three main reasons for the change in policy: the need to attract the best talent possible, the reality that there are a large number of transgender people in the military, and the principle that “Americans who want to serve ... should be the afforded the opportunity to compete to do so.”

A RAND Corporation study, according to Carter, estimated that there are approximately 2,500 transgender service members out of 1.3 million total military members, and 1,500 transgender members of the reserves, out of 825,000 total.

Carter announced a 12-month implementation plan “starting most immediately with guidance for current service members and their commanders, followed by training for the entire force, and then beginning to access new military service members who are transgender. Implementation will begin today.”

He added that “simply declaring a change in policy is not effective implementation. That’s why we’ve worked hard on the implementation plan and must continue to do so.”

Carter also noted that transgender Americans will have to be “stable in their identified gender for 18 months” before they are allowed to join the armed forces.

“This is my decision,” Carter said. “However, we have arrived at it together, the senior leadership of the department. They support this timetable and this implementation plan.”

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