With liberty and justice for “all.”
In a historic move, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced on Thursday, June 30 that, effective immediately, transgender Americans can openly serve in the military.
For many people, this may sound like a policy change that is long overdue, but critics of the repeal still abound, and not purely for reasons of social prejudice. In reality, the policy change boils down to medical and financial repercussions that have kept the hateful and repressive regulations in place these many years, preventing even the most dedicated and willing of Americans from being true to themselves and others while serving and protecting our nation.
Following a year-long study meant to analyze these potential effects of allowing transgender troops and volunteers to openly serve, the Pentagon made its announcement at the very end of LGBT Pride Month, marking another push towards equality from the Obama Administration. As retired Army Major General Gale S. Pollock, who helped lead the study, said, “From a military officer perspective, we consider honor and integrity to be just essential values. But how can we say that when we’re asking these men and women to lie about who they are? That’s very comparable to the ‘don’t as, don’t tell’ piece. To me, it’s just wrong.”
Of course, the announcement still has its critics…
A Psychosexual Condition
Previously, transgender individuals were prevented from openly serving in the military because their orientation was written off as a psychological or medical condition – and thus problematic. Technically included under Defense Instruction 6130.03 as a “psychosexual condition,” gender dysphoria or even openly acknowledging one’s ‘transgenderism’ rendered them unfit to serve.
Regardless of the restriction, an estimated 15,500 transgender people currently serve in active duty or reserve forces, according to a 2014 study from the Williams Institute at the University of California. In fact, the research suggests that transgender people are more than twice as likely to serve in the military, with 21% of the American transgender population having enlisted versus just 10% of the country’s total population.
Coming some years after the repeal of the military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which effectively allowed LGB individuals to openly serve in the military, last week’s historic move to allow transgender people to openly serve has been a long time coming.
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter dismissed the military’s existing regulations and rules around LGBT troops as “outdated,” stressing that there are far more important things to focus on than a soldier’s orientation and identity:
“Our mission is to defend this country, and we don’t want barriers unrelated to a person’s qualification to serve preventing us from recruiting or retaining the soldier, sailor, airman, or marine who can best accomplish the mission,” he said. “We have to have access to a hundred percent of America’s population for our all-volunteer force to be able to recruit from among them the most highly qualified and to retain them.”