In accordance with a pair of directives from President Joe Biden, the Pentagon is officially reversing anti-trans military policies implemented under former President Donald Trump.
The Department of Defense announced March 31 that the agency is restoring its 2016 policies, which first allowed transgender service members to serve openly in the military, effective April 30. The updated policies restore discrimination protections on the basis of gender identity and allow trans services members to access gender-affirming medical care.
The department’s update comes months after the Biden administration signed two executive orders — one combating discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and the other lifting the Trump administration’s ban on trans troops.
“The United States armed forces are in the business of defending our fellow citizens from our enemies, foreign and domestic,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a written statement. “I believe we accomplish that mission more effectively when we represent all our fellow citizens. I also believe we should avail ourselves of the best possible talent in our population, regardless of gender identity. We would be rendering ourselves less fit to the task if we excluded from our ranks people who meet our standards and who have the skills and devotion to serve in uniform. This is the right thing to do. It is also the smart thing to do.”
Former President Trump first announced the ban on Twitter in 2017 and went on to justify his policy by pushing nonsensical claims that trans people were unfit to serve because of high transition-related healthcare costs.
“We’d actually have to break rules and regulations in order to have that,” Trump falsely stated during an interview with Piers Morgan of “Good Morning Britain.” “It is what it is… The operation is $200,000, $250,000, the recovery period is long, and they have to take large amounts of drugs after that… You can’t do that.”
After the ban went into effect in April of 2019, Gay City News uncovered the military’s dysfunctional and chaotic rollout process. When this newspaper contacted every branch of the government to seek details on the status of the policy, some branches withheld details about discharges and others said discharges of trans service members were not being tracked. The Pentagon at the time itself also appeared to misrepresent the policy.
Now the current administration is drawing praise from researchers and advocates alike.
Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center, a think tank studying LGBTQ people in the armed forces, applauded the administration’s plan and said the center would continue to monitor the re-integration of transgender troops.
“This is a big step toward making our military stronger and fairer,” Belkin said in a written statement. “It recognizes years of research showing that a single standard for all service members improves readiness and allows for the widest possible pool of qualified personnel.”
SPART*A, a group of transgender service members and veterans, said the latest measures would improve the well-being of transgender military personnel who have felt forced to hide their gender identity.
“This policy provides much-needed clarity to our service members, allowing them to complete their transitions in a timely fashion and quickly resume their day to day mission within our armed services,” Melody Stachour, a Navy chief petty 0fficer and member at SPART*A, said in a written statement.
According to the organization, the ban disrupted the lives of several service members who were already serving openly under the 2016 policies. Bree Fram, SPART*A’s vice president, said the newest guidelines would build more opportunities for transgender military professionals.
“Military personnel reach maximum effectiveness when they have access to all medically necessary care, and we are excited that this policy extends that access to transgender service members,” Fram said in a written statement. “Opening recruitment to transgender individuals ensures an extremely talented and motivated pool of people that this country needs have the opportunity to serve in uniform.”
Until the policy is in effect later this month, service members, commanders, and medical professionals will follow the Department’s interim guidance instated after Biden’s executive order earlier this year.
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