The U.S. Department of Defense is expected to announce by July 1 an end to the ban on transgender people serving openly in our military.
“At long last, thousands of brave transgender patriots will be able to serve our nation openly with the respect they deserve,” Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a news release. “This historic announcement will not only extend long-overdue recognition to thousands of transgender service members, it will strengthen our military and our nation. By turning the page on this disgraceful policy, we will now be able to recruit and retain the very best candidates, rather than discharging highly-trained, talented transgender service members for no other reason than who they are.”
In July 2015, the Pentagon announced a working group to study how to modify existing regulations to allow open transgender military service.
The working group was expected to complete its review after six months and provide options for how to address the various regulations needed to be updated in order to allow for open service by transgender people.
According to the Williams Institute, there are about 15,500 actively serving transgender members of the U.S. military, making the Department of Defense the largest employer of transgender people in the United States.
But Defense Department medical regulations prohibit transgender service and require separation from the military if discovered.
HRC said the outdated regulations have significant implications for military readiness and on the transgender service members who are currently risking their lives around the world — sometimes in combat zones. A service member who is able to be open and honest about his or her gender identity and receive appropriate care is more productive and more focused on their job.
Eighteen other nations, including the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and Israel, allow transgender people to serve openly in armed forces. U.S. service members have been serving alongside their transgender counterparts from these allied forces since at least 2001.
Unlike the now repealed statutory ban against lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members, the ban on transgender military service is policy and can be removed by the Defense Department.
“This decision is a great victory for the many trans people who have served and sacrificed in the military over the years. They also served in fear of being discharged from the service for simply being who they are. Thankfully this now will change. We look forward to hearing more implementation details,” said Victoria Rodríguez-Roldán of the National LGBTQ Task Force.
Lisa Neff is senior news editor for the Wisconsin Gazette.