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DoD Transgender Policy Change

On July 13th, 2015 Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter announced a long awaited policy change that will lead to allowing open Transgender service by early next year.  The full details are explained in the actual DoD press release below.

The short version is that:
1. Known Transgender personnel on active duty can no longer be involuntarily separated except by the Undersecretary of Defense; essentially halting discharges of outed Transgender service members.
2. A Pentagon Working Group is being established that will study how to integrate openly serving Transgender personnel into our armed services.  The study, which presumes that Transgender personnel will be permitted to serve openly, will develop regulatory and policy changes and include training troops in acceptance and non-discrimination, and also deal with pragmatic details such as which toilets may be used, which uniforms may be donned, which units may be assigned, and so on.

Essentially, the same process was implemented to facilitate the transition to open service by Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual armed forces personnel from 2010 to 2011.

While our allied nations included their Transgender citizens from the start when they began lifting their bans on LGBT service in the mid 1990s, it is nonetheless breathtaking that this change is taking place now in the US.  Gay Military Signal attributes this to the leadership of President Obama who has heard the long term ongoing campaigns of LGBT veterans groups such as Transgender American Veterans Association (TAVA) and American Veterans for Equal Rights (AVER), along with the urgings of progressive members of Congress including Senators Gillibrand (D NY) and Schatz (D HI) and Representatives Pocan (D WI) and Rangel (D NY).

Opponents are already shouting about showers, moral fiber, and unit cohesion, just as they did when President Truman racially integrated our armed forces in 1948, when President Clinton integrated women into our armed forces in the 1990s, and of course when President Obama and Congress integrated Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual patriotic volunteers into our armed forces.  As SECDEF Carter notes below,  "We must ensure that everyone who's able and willing to serve has the full and equal opportunity to do so, and we must treat all our people with the dignity and respect they deserve. Going forward, the Department of Defense must and will continue to improve how we do both. Our military's future strength depends on it."

The full DoD Press Release:

Release No: NR-272-15
July 13, 2015

Statement by Secretary of Defense Ash Carter on DOD Transgender Policy

Over the last fourteen years of conflict, the Department of Defense has proven itself to be a learning organization. This is true in war, where we have adapted to counterinsurgency, unmanned systems, and new battlefield requirements such as MRAPs. It is also true with respect to institutional activities, where we have learned from how we repealed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," from our efforts to eliminate sexual assault in the military, and from our work to open up ground combat positions to women. Throughout this time, transgender men and women in uniform have been there with us, even as they often had to serve in silence alongside their fellow comrades in arms.

The Defense Department's current regulations regarding transgender service members are outdated and are causing uncertainty that distracts commanders from our core missions. 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. Moreover, 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.

Today, I am issuing two directives to deal with this matter. First, DoD will create a working group to study over the next six months the policy and readiness implications of welcoming transgender persons to serve openly. Led by (Acting) Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Brad Carson, and composed of military and civilian personnel representing all the military services and the Joint Staff, this working group will report to Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work. At my direction, the working group will start with the presumption that transgender persons can serve openly without adverse impact on military effectiveness and readiness, unless and except where objective, practical impediments are identified. Second, I am directing that decision authority in all administrative discharges for those diagnosed with gender dysphoria or who identify themselves as transgender be elevated to Under Secretary Carson, who will make determinations on all potential separations.

As I've said before, we must ensure that everyone who's able and willing to serve has the full and equal opportunity to do so, and we must treat all our people with the dignity and respect they deserve. Going forward, the Department of Defense must and will continue to improve how we do both. Our military's future strength depends on it.

Evan Young, Major, USA, Ret., the President of Transgender American Veterans Association, included the following in his response to the announcement:

"The announcement that the Pentagon may soon lift the ban on transgender service is the culmination of years of campaigning for the right of patriotic Americans to volunteer and serve their country with dignity and respect. It is our sincere desire to have the value of a service member judged not by their gender identity but rather by their individual performance.

It is a welcome change to see actively serving transgender service members be able to focus on fighting for their country instead of fighting for their careers.  As the DoD moves forward with its inclusion policy TAVA will continue to provide unwavering support for transgender veterans past, present, and future."

2015 GayMilitarySignal