US Military Ends Transgender Ban

The Defense Department is working to fully integrate transgender troops.

The Defense Department is working to fully integrate transgender troops.

USA Today (“Dismantling military’s transgender ban to begin Monday“):

Top Pentagon officials plan to meet Monday to lay out the road map for allowing transgender troops to serve openly in the military, a Defense Department official said Wednesday.

Meantime, on Tuesday, Defense Secretary Ash Carter sent a memo to top military brass and civilians formally outlining his plan that would protect transgender troops from being discharged and directs officials to develop a plan within six months to incorporate those troops into the ranks.

How transgender troops will be housed, what uniforms they’ll be permitted to wear and what medical treatments they’ll be entitled to will be among the key issues for the Pentagon to resolve, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss details of the discussions publicly.

“The working group will start with the assumption that transgender persons can serve openly without adverse impact on military effectiveness and readiness unless and except where objective, practical impediments are identified, and shall present its recommendations to me within 180 days,” Carter wrote in his memo.

Unlike lifting the ban on openly homosexual troops, which took two decades of bitter struggle, this comes seemingly out of nowhere. Further, while the integration of gays took place after the broader culture had changed, the transgender issue is cutting edge. While sexual reassignment surgery made a bit of a pop culture splash in the 1970s and 1980s, it was essentially a non-issue until Bruce Jenner came out on national television.

I’m not sure that the “assumption that transgender persons can serve openly without adverse impact on military effectiveness and readiness” is warranted. The warrior culture almost universally finds the issue baffling at best and sick at worst; it’s not going to be an easy transition. An assumption that people have a right to serve so long as they can do the job, notwithstanding societal prejudice, is perhaps a better starting point.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.