These Military Transgender Policy Changes Could Mark A Historic Win For Equality
CNN reports that some military officials claim that the Pentagon is poised to lift the ban on transgender service members, allowing them to serve openly for the first time in the military's history. This alleged announcement would reflect much of the progress made since the end of the military's former Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy that likewise banned gay and lesbian people from serving openly in the armed forces. The military's official announcement on the decision could come as early as July 1.
Lifting the ban would remove a massive burden for the estimated 15,000 transgender people actively serving in the military, as well as the estimated 134,000 transgender veterans. According to a Williams Institute study, this makes the armed forces the largest employer of transgender people in the country. Though the details of how the lift will specifically address transgender service members' needs are unknown, this is nevertheless a welcome step in making the military open to all those wishing to serve.
The decision comes after U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter's announcement last year that the military would employ a working group to study the policy on transgender service members. The group considered a list of issues surrounding transgender service, including recruiting, housing, uniforms, medical treatment, and physical fitness standards. Discussing the affects of the ban last year, Carter said that the policies are "outdated and are causing uncertainty that distracts commanders from our core missions."
A report commissioned by the Pentagon found that the changing policy on transgender troops would have little to no impact on military costs or readiness. With the new policy, the Pentagon will also outline who is eligible for sex reassignment surgery and hormone treatment, as well as how long they would need to serve before gaining eligibility. However, the report found that few transgender service members would require treatment or surgery, and the estimated costs of providing those services would only be between $2.4 million and $8.4 million a year. To put that into perspective with the military's overall budget, their total healthcare expenses were $6.27 billion in 2014.
If the Defense Department lifts the ban, transgender people will finally be able to serve openly and honestly, without fear of expulsion from active duty or being at risk of losing benefits as a veteran. This potential lift would reflect a wider acceptance of transgender people nationwide, thankfully.