In another groundbreaking move for LGBT military policy, the Pentagon said it will allow openly transgender people to be members of the military for the first time in its history. The move was widely supported by LGBT military groups.
The success that the LGBT movement has seen in recent years shows no signs of slowing—particularly in the U.S. military, where it was just a few years ago when bans on openly gay soldiers still stood.
The latest victory for advocates comes from the Pentagon, which is poised to lift a ban on transgender people in the military, a move that Secretary of Defense Ash Carter confirmed on Monday.
“At a time when our troops have learned from experience that the most important qualification for service members should be whether they’re able and willing to do their job, our officers and enlisted personnel are faced with certain rules that tell them the opposite,” Carter said in a news release. “Moreover, we have transgender soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines—real, patriotic Americans—who I know are being hurt by an outdated, confusing, inconsistent approach that’s contrary to our value of service and individual merit.”
The six-month implementation plan comes months after Carter emphasized that he was “open-minded” on the shift.
An Effect on Families
Prior to the announcement, the association space had been focused on the issue, particularly the American Military Partners Association (AMPA). The association, which also (under a different name) played a key role in the ending of the military’s former “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, released a report earlier this year with the Transgender American Veterans Association that highlighted the pressures the military’s transgender policy had on active-duty soldiers and their families.
“As long as the military continues to enforce antiquated medical regulations, the entire family is subject to the ban’s harmful impact,” the report states. “They are exposed to the same levels of risk, discrimination, and humiliation that transgender service members face, left with no choice but to serve in silence along with their service member. The entire family unit shares in the burden of having to live a double life, forced to keep their loved one’s true gender identity concealed. Often times, they remain helpless, witnessing the pain and torment their loved one experiences as a result of overwhelming pressure from the ban.”
The report also included a number of personal anecdotes from military families representing the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force.
AMPA President Ashley Broadway-Mack said the group was “thrilled” with Carter’s announcement.
“All qualified Americans should be able to serve our great nation, regardless of their gender identity,” she noted. “Lifting the ban will dramatically improve the lives of our transgender service members and their families by allowing them to serve authentically.”
‘Six Months Is More Than Enough Time’
Service members, Partners, and Allies for Respect and Tolerance for All (SPARTA), another advocacy group, also welcomed the news but suggested the implementation plan was perhaps a bit too lengthy.
“Six months is more than enough time to hammer out the details. This isn’t new ground,” SPARTA Director of Policy Allyson Robinson added. “A number of our military allies deploy transgender troops alongside American forces down-range, as do DOD contractors. Police and fire departments have managed transgender inclusion. I’m confident that our military leaders can handle this as smoothly as the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’”