On Monday, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced a plan to study the possibility of allowing transgender people to serve openly in the military, so that the Pentagon could lift its ban on transgender soldiers in the coming months. According to AP, services will have six months to assess the impact of the change and figure out the details before it can become official. Carter wrote in the announcement memo: "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."
According to CNN, the White House has been pressuring the Pentagon to lift the ban on transgender soldiers, but officials thought it was necessary to first determine how the subsequent medical and legal issues will be handled. Some of the questions the Pentagon wants to examine and establish guidelines for include whether hormone doses be taken in a war zone, when a transition is complete, what happens if a person decides not to go through a full surgical transition, and at what point a person should change uniforms and barracks. "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have transgender soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines — real, patriotic Americans — who I know are being hurt by an outdated, confusing, inconsistent approach that's contrary to our value of service and individual merit," Carter said in his announcement.
The issue of transgender individuals in the military got increasing attention after Chelsea Manning, an Army private convicted in 2013 for leaking classified documents, revealed herself as transgender and requested hormone therapy in prison. Manning, arrested as Bradley Manning, was the first transgender military prisoner to request hormone treatments, and the Army eventually approved the request.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) applauded Carter's announcement. HRC president Chad Griffin said in a blog post:
The time for ending the military's ban on transgender service is long overdue, and we are confident that the Pentagon's review of this discriminatory policy will find what many have come to know is true: Transgender Americans have every right to serve their country openly and honestly, and their sense of patriotism and duty is no less than any other service member's.
The ban on gay people serving in the military was lifted in a similar way a few years ago. Congress passed legislation repealing the Don't Ask, Don't Tell rule in 2010, but the military spent months ironing out the details before it actually took effect in 2011. The announcement of a study on the possibility of allowing transgender soldiers comes a few weeks after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. Including transgender people in the military would be another major win for LGBT rights.