Transgender Soldiers Will Finally Be Allowed To Openly Serve In The U.S. Military

Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced Thursday that after roughly a year of deliberation, the Pentagon is lifting its ban on transgender troops. “This is the right thing to do for our people and for the force. We’re talking about talented Americans who are serving with distinction or who want the opportunity to serve,” Carter said in his policy announcement. “We can’t allow barriers unrelated to a person’s qualifications prevent us from recruiting and retaining those who can best accomplish the mission.”

Some officials continue to question how the military will address medical, housing, and uniform issues for troops who are transitioning. While this hasn’t yet been made clear, given the Pentagon’s willingness to waste trillions on warplanes that will most likely never be used, there’s no question that it has enough to create a healthier environment for the brave Americans willing to die for their nation. Additionally, this policy change will be phased in over the course of a year.

By Oct. 1 of this year, transgender troops will be able to receive medical care and formally change their gender identification in the Pentagon’s system, ABC News reports.

For years, the primary concern with transgender individuals serving in the military, let alone openly, was that the individual’s gender dysphoria would negatively affect their ability to serve, as it can lead to depression and anxiety. But new medical research indicates hormone therapy can treat gender dysphoria and, additionally, not all transgender people suffer from severe gender dysphoria. Estimates of how many active-duty members of the military identify as transgender range from 2,450 to 15,000 out of the total 1.2 million active-duty troops.

In terms of gender, the U.S. military made substantial progress late last year when it lifted all remaining barriers preventing women able to meet physical standards from serving in frontline combat roles. Congress earned praise from some earlier this month when it voted to open the draft to women.

But in terms of its progress on LGBTQ rights, this is arguably the Pentagon’s most progressive move since “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was lifted in 2010. President Obama, who not too long ago appointed the first openly gay man to be army secretary and more recently appointed a transgender woman to the  President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, made waiving “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” a focal point of his campaign for the presidency, and passionately addressed it in his 2010 State of the Union address. By the end of the year, he signed the repeal into law.

CREDIT: Mladen Antonov/Getty Images

While gendered discrimination in the military is frankly as old as time, some date the first evidence of discrimination in the military based on sexual orientation to 1778, when Lieutenant Gotthold Frederick Enslin was dismissed by General George Washington for “sodomy,” according to the U.S. Naval Institute. (Your daily reminder that the Founding Fathers could all be more than a little problematic at times.) And between 1917 and 1921, the U.S. Articles of War specified that sodomy in the military was a crime and identified feminine characteristics as grounds for being declared unfit for service.

By 1941, the U.S. Selective Service System included “homosexual proclivities” as a disqualifying condition for being included in the military draft, and, sure, this might have been utterly homophobic garbage, but at the same time, the draft is hardly a privilege. The military’s discrimination against the LGBTQ community was rooted in military psychiatrists’ bizarre warnings that homosexuality was the same thing as a “psychopathic personality disorder” that somehow made gay men unfit to fight.

I don’t doubt the Ted Cruzes of the world will be quick to use similar rhetoric and identify the repeal of this ban as some dangerous social experiment by the evil Obama administration, but I defy any of them to find some non-partisan, objective evidence that any gay or transgender man or woman who meets the U.S. military’s physical standards is somehow incompetent or inferior to straight men who meet the same standards.