The US military lifted the ban on transgender people to openly serve in the military, with Defense Secretary Ash Carter saying that the armed services “don’t want barriers unrelated to a person’s qualifications to serve.” Ash Carter made the announcement at a Pentagon news conference on Thursday, June 30. The change is said to be effective immediately. Top Pentagon officials finalized details of the plan earlier in the week.
“The Defense Department and the military need to avail ourselves of all talent possible in order to remain what we are now – the finest fighting force the world has ever known”.”We don’t want barriers unrelated to a person’s qualifications to serve preventing us from recruiting or retaining the soldier, sailor, airman or Marine who can best accomplish the mission.”
The plan directs every branch of the armed services to implement new policies affecting recruiting, medical care, housing and uniforms for transgender troops. The military services will conduct training for commanders and medical personnel over the next 90 days who have transgender personnel in their units. Over the next nine months, there will be training for all military services and medical personnel in regards to transgender military personnel.
“When the training is complete, no later than one year from today, the military services will begin accessing transgender individuals who meet all standards, holding them to the same physical and mental fitness standards as everyone else who wants to join the military,” said Carter.
Last July he announced he would lift the ban and formed a task force to review how that process would commence. He directed the task force to work under the assumption that the ban would be lifted. The task force’s assessment continued beyond the original six-month deadline, and recommendations were not presented until February.
“All this represents a sea change from even a decade ago,” said Carter. “It’s important that we do it.”
According to a Rand Corp. study, an estimated 2,500 active service members out of 1.3 million are transgender, and about 65 service members seek to make a gender transition each year. The study determined that any medical or institutional costs associated with the policy change would be minimal.
Once the plan is fully in place, the military’s health care system will pay for gender reassignment surgery. Any treatment will be categorized as nonurgent and subject to a service member’s current readiness status.
For new transgender military hopefuls, they have to have had their gender reassignments at least 18 months before joining the military and have to be stable.