The Pentagon has lifted its long-standing ban on transgender troops serving openly in the U.S. military Thursday, finally knocking one of the last hurdles to service based on sex. Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced the decision to be in effect immediately amid concerns with top officials regarding medical, housing, and uniform issues for troops transitioning to the other sex.
“This is the right thing to do for our people and for the force,” Carter said. “We’re talking about talented Americans who are serving with distinction or who want the opportunity to serve. We can’t allow barriers unrelated to a person’s qualifications prevent us from recruiting and retaining those who can best accomplish the mission."
The decision comes after a study group was conducted to examine the issues raised by lifting the ban, Carter mentioned, who also ordered that decisions to discharge troops with gender dysphoria had to be raised to senior Pentagon officials, which helped stop the practice of ending transgender troops from service for medical reasons. The landmark decision comes amid trans rights throughout the country and during LGBTQ Pride Month.
By Oct. 1, the Pentagon will create training handbook, medical protocol, and "guidance for changing a service member’s gender in the Defense Eligibility Enrollment System (DEERS)," Carter's announcement said. "At this point, the services will be required to provide medically necessary care and treatment to transgender service members according to the medical protocol and guidance, and may begin changing gender markers in DEERS."
The decision comes a year after Carter announced it would review its current policies on transgender service, and five years after the nation ended the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military in 2011.