Pentagon plans to allow transgender service members
The Department of Defense has just announced another move toward equality in the military. In a statement by Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, the DoD has declared current policies against transgender service members are “outdated” and “distracts commanders from their core mission.”
This new progress is essential given that, according to the National Center for Transgender equality, over 15,000 trans people are currently serving in the military.
In his statement, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced the creation of a working group that will assess the role that transgender people play within the military. The group will work over the next six months to determine the implications of allowing trans persons so openly serve in the military. Carter has stated, however, that the group will work under the presumption that “transgender persons can serve openly without adverse impact on military effectiveness and readiness.”
In addition to this working committee, Carter has stated that he will address persons who have been discharged from the military because of their gender.
The statement says that “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.”
Currently, transgender persons are not allowed to openly serve in the military. Transgender service members are made to wear uniforms and assigned to barracks based on their biological gender, and not the gender identity they currently align with.
For currently active trans service members like Shane Ortega (pictured above), this is welcome news. Ortega told ABC News he was “pumped” to hear about the change in policy.
Ortega came out publicly while serving as helicopter crew chief in 2010. He’s since acted as a mentor to other trans service members who are either out or continue to hide their gender identity.
“I take care of soldiers in my unit. I haven’t had any friction with anyone,” Ortega told ABC News. “I do have an A-type personality. I [try to] operate as a quiet professional. … Your actions speak for themselves.”
While Carter does not specifically call out these practices and policies, he states his concern for the over 15,000 transgender service members, and presumably the 134,000 veterans, who have been affected by these policies.
“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,” said Carter in the statement that was released on Monday.
The President of the Human Rights Campaign, Chad Griffin, released a statement in response to the Pentagon’s plan to allow Transgender persons to serve in the military. “The time for ending the military’s longstanding ban on transgender service is long overdue,” said Griffin. “Values that represent the foundation of our armed services–including integrity, respect and courage–will become more true when these outdated regulations are finally updated.”
Secretary of Defense Carter echoes that sentiment.
“We must treat all our people with the dignity and respect they deserve,” said Carter. “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.”
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