The Ban On Transgender Troops Could Be Lifted As Early As Next Month
Last week, ahead of Sunday’s glorious haze of Pride festivities, the Pentagon officially announced the repeal of its ban on transgender service members effective early in July. A Defense official anonymously told USA Today that top personnel would meet on Monday to finalize the plan, which could receive approval from Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work as early as Wednesday, and be formally announced around Independence Day. It would be pretty cool to celebrate the anniversary of a nation that has historically excluded so many groups from its claims of freedom and independence with inclusivity like this.
Talks were in place about lifting the ban as early as last year, when Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced the Department of Defense intended on lifting it unless review indicated this would somehow have “adverse impact on military effectiveness and readiness.” Since this clearly wasn’t the case, each branch of the military will have a one-year period “to implement new policies affecting recruiting, housing, and uniforms for transgender troops,” according to USA Today.
Since the Obama administration has never been shy about acknowledging the fact that LGBTQ individuals are as competent as straight people, from appointing an openly gay man to be army secretary to appointing a transgender woman to the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, this victory for trans rights should hardly come as a surprise. But unfortunately, conservative criticism of what some are un-ironically calling the Obama administration’s latest “social experiment” shouldn’t come as a surprise, either.
Republican Representative Mac Thornberry of Texas, chair of the House of the Armed Services Committee, issued a statement saying, “If reports are correct, I believe Secretary Carter has put the political agenda of a departing administration ahead of the military’s readiness crisis,” implying that transgender individuals are inherently less capable and will make the military less “ready” (with literally zero evidence to back up this transphobic claim). Further, Thornberry questioned how the Pentagon would be able to provide medical treatment for transgender troops if this included costs of hormone therapy and surgery.
Considering the Department of Defense has dedicated about one year to looking into potentially adverse effects of lifting the ban, I’m willing to bet officials spent some time factoring in things like medical costs. Additionally, considering the trillions the Pentagon has famously invested in never-used warplanes, I’m inclined to think money to foster a more tolerant and effective environment for every American willing to die for their nation does, in fact, exist.
Estimates of how many active-duty members of the military identify as transgender range from 2,450 of the total 1.2 million, according to a study by the RAND Corporation, to 15,000, according to a study by UCLA.
News of the Pentagon’s decision to move toward progress and equality follows a deadly mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando that has been widely perceived as a direct attack on the LGBTQ community. The end of this transphobic ban — which unjustly attacks individuals who are quite literally willing to die for their nation — offers hope that in the wake of such devastating tragedy, we’re finally moving in the right direction.