Pentagon Ends Ban on Transgender People Serving in the US Military

Within 90 days, a guidebook will be made for commanders on rules regarding transgender service members.

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Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced new rules allowing transgender individuals to serve openly in the US military. (Photo: AP)

The Pentagon on Thursday ended its ban on openly transgender people serving in the US military, formally removing the risk to an estimated thousands of US troops who once could have been kicked out of the armed forces due to gender identity.

The repeal comes after a 2011 decision to end the US 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.

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. Within 90 days, the Pentagon would create a guidebook for commanders on rules regarding transgender service members and medical guidance to doctors.
Ash Carter, Defense Secretary

Within one year, transgender individuals would be allowed to join the armed forces, provided they have been “stable” in their preferred gender for 18 months, he said.

Based on a study carried out by the RAND Corporation, there were about 2,500 transgender active-duty service members 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 RAND study, which was also released on Thursday, said lifting the ban would cost between $2.4 million and $8.4 million annually in medical care, but could reduce costs associated with mental health.

A Defense official said the Pentagon had not yet made a determination on what it would cost to make changes in military facilities, like potentially adding shower curtains, but that it would only be a onetime cost.

“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.

(With Reuters input)

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