WASHINGTON – The Pentagon on Wednesday lifted a Trump-era ban on transgender people from serving in the military, issuing new rules that would give them access to gender transitional care and denied medical services under the Trump administration.
The general guidelines allow transgender people to enlist and serve openly as the sex they identify with and to receive the medically necessary care permitted by law. They also prohibit discrimination based on gender identity.
The change follows an executive order signed by President Biden in January that restored protections put in place under the Obama administration that opened the ranks of the armed services to transgender people. The order gave the Department of Defense 60 days to evaluate the guidelines.
The Pentagon announced the change the same day Mr. Biden proclaimed a “transgender visibility day.” President and senior administration officials posted on Twitter that “transgender rights are human rights” and called on Americans to end discrimination against transgender people.
Supporters of overturning the ban were elated.
“We have always said that re-establishing a policy of full inclusion of transgender troops would be simple,” Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center, said in a statement. “This is a big step forward in making our armed forces stronger and more equitable, and it recognizes years of research showing that a single standard for all members of the service improves readiness and enables the greatest possible number of qualified personnel.
John F. Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, told a press conference that the Defense Department “will lead by example” on the issue of transgender rights.
An estimated 1,000 to 8,000 members of the service identify as transgender, Stephanie Miller, director of the Pentagon’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, said at the press conference, although Defense Ministry officials acknowledge that this number is imprecise and could be higher. She also said the estimated costs of medical treatment for transgender troops, which President Donald J. Trump cited as the reason for the ban, would be “a handful of a million dollars” per year.
“The Pentagon has absolutely done the right thing today by re-establishing a policy of inclusion for transgender service members, who will once again be able to serve openly and proudly in their self-identified gender,” Representative Jackie Speier, a Democrat of California and a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said in a statement.
While this move was expected, the speed with which it occurred indicated the Biden administration’s willingness to put its stamp on social issues at the Department of Defense. The Pentagon has also looked into how the military has handled sexual assault issues.
Mr Biden and Defense Department officials are also grappling with a race calculation at the Pentagon, where officials faced a startling fact: Nearly one in five people arrested for violating the Capitol on Jan. 6 has ties to the military, and many have ties to white supremacist organizations.
After the attack, the Pentagon held a series of sessions to address extremist and white supremacist groups in the military. One of the first things Lloyd J. Austin III did after becoming Secretary of Defense was to order a service-wide “resignation” to combat extremism in the ranks. The term refers to an issue – in the past, it was about security, sexual assault, or suicide – that the secretary deemed important enough that it needed to be addressed in discussions with officials. troops from all over the world.