Today, the official proclamation came from Defense Secretary Ash Carter that transgender troops will now be able to openly serve their country in all branches of the armed forces.
According to CNN, Secretary Carter has announced the ending of this ban will take effect immediately, and transgender people will no longer be discharged on the basis of their gender identity.
Secretary Carter said, “Although relatively few in number, we’re talking about talented and trained Americans who are serving their country with honor and distinction. We want to take the opportunity to retain people whose talent we’ve invested in and who’ve proven themselves.”
The process of introducing and implementing reformed procedures to address admission,health care, housing, uniforms, and non-discrimination is expected to take another year.
SPARTA, the largest organization of actively-serving transgender military members today celebrated the Pentagon’s announcement confirming that transgender Americans will be able to serve their country on equal footing with other service members.
“Secretary Carter today fulfills his promise that every American who is qualified to serve will be allowed to serve,” said former Army Captain Sue Fulton, President of SPARTA. “The thousands of transgender soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen – and their commanders – have one less burden on their shoulders today. We are grateful to the military and civilian leaders in the Department of Defense who worked so hard to get this right.”
In 2011, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” — a policy that protected closeted lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) personnel from discrimination but disallowed them from serving openly in the military — was repealed, giving LGB military service members the right to serve their country regardless of their sexual orientation. However, the lift of this ban did not apply to gender identity and transgender people were still unable to serve openly.
According to the Palm Center’s Report of the Transgender Service Commission, it is estimated that there are 15,500 active transgender troops and more than 134,000 transgender veterans who served in the United States armed forces. Transgender people also enlist in the military at a proportionately higher rate than the general population with transgender adults being more than twice as likely than cisgender adults to serve.
Most transgender troops, however, have been forced to conceal their gender identity to avoid a risk of being discharged at a commander’s discretion or losing their benefits simply for being who they are.