DOD Moves Toward Allowing Transgender Troops to Serve Openly

Transgender in Military
Two Members of US Military Embrace During LGBT Rights March. Porter Gifford/Hulton Archive

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) has announced it will study the implications of allowing transgender persons to serve openly in all branches of the military.

According to Defense Secretary Ash Carter, the study will be conducted with a presumption that transgender men and women will be allowed to serve unless “objective and practical impediments” to doing so are identified.

In a press statement, Sec. Carter said that over the last 14 years of war, the DOD had proven to be an organization capable of learning and adapting to change.

“This is true in war, where we have adapted to counterinsurgency, unmanned systems, and new battlefield requirements,” Carter said. “It is also true with respect to institutional activities, where we have learned from how we repealed ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ from our efforts to eliminate sexual assault in the military, and from our work to open up ground combat positions to women.”

“Throughout this time,” Carter continued, “transgender men and women in uniform have been there with us, even as they often had to serve in silence alongside their fellow comrades in arms.”

Outdated Regulation Have Gotten in the Way

Calling them “outdated,” Sec. Carter said current DOD regulations regarding transgender troops are distracting military commanders, distracting them from their core missions.

“At a time when 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, our officers and enlisted personnel are faced with certain rules that tell them the opposite,” said Carter. “Moreover, 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have transgender soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines -- real, patriotic Americans -- who I know are being hurt by an outdated, confusing, inconsistent approach that's contrary to our value of service and individual merit.”

DOD Working Group to Study the Issue

According to Sec. Carter, a DOD working group will spend the next six months studying the “policy and readiness implications” of allowing transgender person to serve openly. Members of the study group will include top DOD officials along with military and civilian personnel representing all military branches.

“At my direction,” Carter said, “the working group will start with the presumption that transgender persons can serve openly without adverse impact on military effectiveness and readiness, unless and except where objective, practical impediments are identified.”

In addition, Sec Carter issued a directive requiring that all decisions on administrative military discharge status for persons diagnosed with gender dysphoria or who identify themselves as transgender must now be decided only by the Deputy Secretary of Defense.

“As I've said before, we must ensure that everyone who is able and willing to serve has the full and equal opportunity to do so, and we must treat all our people with the dignity and respect they deserve,” Carter said. “Going forward, the Department of Defense must and will continue to improve how we do both. Our military's future strength depends on it.”