The U.S. military is considering a plan to allow transgender people to work openly in the country’s armed forces. According to the Pentagon’s current regulations, transgender individuals are banned from serving in the military and can be dismissed, if discovered.
Ordering a six-month study, under which a working group will analyze whether lifting the ban will adversely affect the military capabilities, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Monday that the Department of Defense had been on a learning curve over the last 14 years in its efforts to eliminate sexual assault in the military. Carter acknowledged that transgender men and women have been a part of the U.S. military, “even as they often had to serve in silence” along with other comrades.
“At my direction, 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,” Carter said in a statement.
Brad Carson, the acting undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, will lead the working group, which will be composed of senior military and civilian leaders. As part of the plan, the group will focus on legal, medical and administrative concerns, the Associated Press (AP) reported, adding that nearly 15,000 transgender people serve in the U.S. military in secret, but often with the knowledge of their unit commander or peers.
“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have transgender soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines - real, patriotic Americans - who I know are being hurt by an outdated, confusing, inconsistent approach that's contrary to our value of service and individual merit,” Carter said.
However, the repeal of the ban also raises questions about whether the military would conduct or compensate for the medical costs of surgeries and other treatment associated with any gender transition. In addition, the military will also have to deal with concerns related to transgender troops’ healthcare, housing, uniform and training to ease the transition, the AP reported.
“As I've said before, we must ensure that everyone who's 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 in the statement.