When Will The Military Transgender Ban End? A Date May Have Been Set, & It's Sooner Than You'd Think
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter released a statement in July decrying the restrictions placed in the military barring anyone who is openly transgender from serving. Carter called for an end to the current practice and vowed to compile a study on how best to approach eliminating the policy altogether. When will the military lift the transgender ban? Judging by a recent memo, it appears that our armed forces have less than a year before this necessary step in equality is achieved.
According to USA Today, the current document being circulated among the military pegs the date as May 27, 2016, while also laying out possible steps in how best to go about lifting the ban on transgender service members. This includes implementing better practices and potentially amending the status of those dishonorably discharged for being transgender as well as how to approach service members who might be undergoing substantial medical procedures as they complete their transition. The move was spawned by Carter, who had this to say in July about overturning current restrictions:
The Defense Department's current regulations regarding transgender service members are outdated and are causing uncertainty that distracts commanders from our core missions. ... 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have transgender soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines — real, patriotic Americans — who I know are being hurt by an outdated, confusing, inconsistent approach that's contrary to our value of service and individual merit.
Under the current system of regulations from the Department of Defense's Medical Standards for Appointment, Enlistment, or Induction in the Military Services, being transgender is considered a learning, psychiatric, and behavioral issue that does not meet medical standards due to an outdated designation of considering gender dysphoria a psychological disorder. This policy has been in place for decades and has prompted multiple lawsuits, including the 1987 case Leyland v. Orr, in which an honorably discharged transgender service member was deemed unsuitable for duty due to her transitioning. A urology consultant, Dr. Donald Novicki, likened a transgender person serving in the military to deploying someone with a serious heart condition to an area lacking necessary medical services.
Rather than continue on with current definitions and restrictions placed on transgender service members, the military is instead looking toward a possible sabbatical pilot program that would allow those transitioning to have the necessary time to safely undergo and recover from medical procedures. It is unclear whether restrictions will be implemented regarding combat roles. Although the ban will not be overturned for months, Carter has enacted policies making it more difficult to discharge transgender service members. Currently, only undersecretary Brad Carson can approve of such dismissals. The move paves the way for additional equality measures that simply can't come soon enough.