Transgender People Can Now Participate in the Military With More Institutional Support and Less Fear​

Safy-Hallan Farah

The 2450 active-duty transgender members of the American military have a reason to cheer because the ban on transgender military service members was officially lifted on Thursday!

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter made the news official during a press conference, following recent reports that the Pentagon would repeal the ban on transgender people serving in the military. Carter said that "effective immediately, transgender Americans may serve openly, and they cannot be discharged or otherwise separated from the military just for being transgender."

He also explained that the change in policy will take effect next year, meaning new transgender recruits will have to wait a full year before they can enlist. Carter told his commanders, however, to "start with the presumption that transgender people can serve openly without impact on military readiness."

For transgender people who want to serve in a year, they will reportedly need documented proof that they've been living as the gender they identify as. Though this does not require them to have undergone any surgery, the burden of proof is still medical: potential recruits must provide evidence from a doctor, confirming their transgender status and must be considered, from a mental health point of view, "free of any distress." Service members who wish to medically transition during their time in the military will receive care and surgeries (if considered necessary). Additionally, the Defense Department will change the Military Equal Opportunity policy to prevent gender identity-based discrimination and bias in the military.

Last year, Carter, who has been a fierce and vocal critic of the ban, called it out as an "outdated, confusing, inconsistent approach that's contrary to our value of service and individual merit." With the lift on transgender military service, as well as the the repeal of the Don't Ask Don't Tell Policy in 2010, the military is finally seeing things his way. But lest we forget, transgender people were fiercely vocal and critical of the ban first, before the institutions that be granted transgender service members this over-due support. In fact, the LGBT military group SPARTA has been advocating on the frontline. Read their handy FAQ and implementation guide.

[h/t The Cut]

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