As you may recall, five years ago, the U.S. Armed Forces repealed the controversial “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, and earlier this year, the military began allowing women to serve in combat roles. So perhaps it should not be a surprise that the U.S. military recently decided to take another step of inclusivity and will soon allow transgender troops to serve their country.
The U.S. Secretary of Defense, Ash Carter, announced that after a year of considerations, the military has now decided it will no longer discriminate against transgender individuals who want to serve in the armed forces. Secretary Carter explained: “This is the right thing to do for our people and for the force… We’re talking about talented Americans who are serving with distinction or who want the opportunity to serve. We can’t allow barriers unrelated to a person’s qualifications prevent us from recruiting and retaining those who can best accomplish the mission.”
A recent RAND study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Defense estimates that there are currently between 1,320 – 6,630 active duty transgender troops in the U.S. military, a disproportionally high number. The study also estimates that 25 – 130 of these individuals would seek surgery and 30 – 140 would try to obtain hormone treatment. RAND estimates this could cost the Pentagon between $2.4 million and $8.4 million each year.
Secretary Carter also announced that his department will provide guidance by October 1st of this year on how the U.S. Armed Forces will accommodate transgender individuals. He explained: “At this point, the services will be required to provide medically necessary care and treatment to transgender service members according to the medical protocol and guidance, and may begin changing gender markers in (the Defense Eligibility Enrollment System).”
Air Force Secretary Deborah James previously touched on this issue a few weeks ago when during an interview with C-SPAN she said: “I’m certain the transgenders will be allowed to serve in a more open way. We’re trying to get the specific policy matters underneath the umbrella policy so that we do it correctly, and roll it out correctly. So if there’s training required, we have that in place, so we explain to commanders and troops how we will proceed.”