Department of Defense Ends Discriminatory Ban on Trans People Serving Openly in the U.S. Military

HRC staff

Today, HRC hailed the Department of Defense (DOD) for finally ending the ban on transgender Americans serving openly in our military. The historic decision means that the U.S. will join 18 other nations, including the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and Israel, already allowing transgender people to serve openly in their militaries.

“Today, we join in celebration with the thousands of brave transgender patriots who will now be able to serve our nation openly and with the deep respect they deserve,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. "Ending this discriminatory policy not only brings long-overdue recognition to transgender service members, it also strengthens our military and our nation. Our military will now be able to recruit the very best candidates, and retain highly-trained, talented transgender service members once facing discharge for no other reason than who they are. History will remember Secretary of Defense Ash Carter for his leadership in taking this historic and necessary step forward.”

Under the new policy, starting today, transgender people in the military will be able to serve openly in the military, and cannot be discharged simply because of their gender identity. Transgender service members on Oct. 1 will be able to access all medically-necessary care and begin to officially change their gender in Pentagon personnel systems.

However, under the new guidelines, openly transgender people will not be allowed to join the military immediately. They won’t able to enlist until up to one year from now, or when training of the forces in the new policy, which begins in October, is complete. In addition, the policy requires that transition-related medical care be completed and the prospective service member must be “stable” according to their doctor for a minimum 18 months. This policy will be reviewed within the next 24 months.

“The outdated regulations have had significant implications on our nation’s military readiness and on transgender service members risking their lives around the world – sometimes in combat zones. The Department of Defense should waste no time in ending these discriminatory practices, and ensuring equal treatment of our transgender service members,” Griffin said. “This includes reducing the unnecessary 18-month waiting period much sooner than in two years.”

In July 2015, the Pentagon announced a working group to study how to modify existing regulations to allow open transgender military service. The working group was expected to complete its review after six months and provide options for how to address the various regulations needed to be updated in order to allow for open service by transgender people.

According to the Williams Institute, there are approximately 15,500 actively serving transgender members of the U.S. military, making the Department of Defense (DoD) the largest employer of transgender people in America. These courageous men and women were forced to serve in silence by DoD medical out-of-date and medically out-of step regulations prohibiting their service and requiring their separation from the military if discovered.

Unlike the statutory ban that interfered with lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members from serving (known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”), the ban on transgender military service was just policy and required only today’s action by the DoD to update.

Since October 2012, the TransMilitary project has existed to create visual media for transgender service members and veterans to be seen and heard. Learn more here.


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