“At long last, thousands of brave transgender patriots will be able to serve our nation openly with the respect they deserve,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “This historic announcement will not only extend long-overdue recognition to thousands of transgender service members, it will strengthen our military and our nation. By turning the page on this disgraceful policy, we will now be able to recruit and retain the very best candidates, rather than discharging highly-trained, talented transgender service members for no other reason than who they are.”
In July 2015, the Pentagon announced a working group to study how to modify existing regulations to allow open transgender military service. The working group was expected to complete its review after six months and provide options for how to address the various regulations needed to be updated in order to allow for open service by transgender people.
According to the Williams Institute, there are approximately 15,500 actively serving transgender members of the U.S. military, making the Department of Defense (DoD) the largest employer of transgender people in America. These courageous men and women were forced to serve in silence by DoD medical regulations prohibiting their service and requiring their separation from the military if discovered – regulations that were outdated and out of step with current medical practice. The outdated regulations have significant implications on our nation’s military readiness and on the transgender service members who are currently risking their lives around the world – sometimes in combat zones – while being unable to be their authentic selves or seek the medical care they need. A service member who is able to be open and honest about his or her gender identity and receive appropriate care is more productive and more focused on their job.
Eighteen other nations, including the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and Israel, allow transgender people to serve openly in their militaries. U.S. service members have been serving alongside their transgender counterparts from these allied forces since at least 2001.
Unlike the statutory ban that interfered with lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members from serving (known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”), the ban on transgender military service was just policy and only required action by the DoD to update.