American President Joe Biden is wasting no time undoing the damage of his predecessor, announcing he will overturn Trump’s transgender military ban, announced in the former President’s first year in office.
“Transgender service members will no longer be subject to the possibility of discharge or separation on the basis of gender identity… President Biden believes that gender identity should not be a bar to military service, and that America’s strength is found in its diversity,” a statement from the Whitehouse read.
The statement went on to say that the military “thrives when it is composed of diverse Americans who can meet the rigorous standards for military service, and an inclusive military strengthens our national security.”
Biden’s new policy was set in in an Executive Order and is the latest directive aimed at reversing the damage inflicted by Trump’s time in office. Signed on Monday morning local time, Biden was flanked by Vice-President Kamala Harris, Chairman Of The Joint Chiefs Of Staff General Mark Milley and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin.
In 2016, just one year before Trump enacted the transgender military ban, former President Barack Obama announced transgender personnel would no longer be barred from serving openly in the US military. This, just five years after a ban on gay troops openly discussing their sexuality under a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was lifted.
At the time, Trump claimed the Obama era policy was both expensive and disruptive and that it eroded military readiness and camaraderie among troops. Of course, these orders gave way for a succession of lawsuits from affected military personnel, however the Supreme Court allowed the ban to take affect while litigation made its way through the lower courts.
Out of more than 1.3 million troops currently serving in the US military, the Pentagon estimates around 9,000 identify as transgender, with around 1,000 of these having or planning to undergo gender-affirming surgeries.
Austin in addition said that the Pentagon would pay for all “medically necessary transition related care. This is the right thing to do. It is also the smart thing to do.”
This latest announcement brings America back into line with the likes of the Australian Defence Force, who in 2010 repealed a Defence Instruction that had effectively barred transgender people from serving.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which had previously sued over Trump’s ban, welcomed Biden’s order saying that it sent “a message that transgender people not only belong in our armed services, but in our country.”
The Palm Center think tank, a group which focuses on sexual minorities in the military, similarly called Biden’s order “a victory of evidence-based policy over prejudice and discrimination.”
“If you can do the job, you should be allowed to do the job, regardless of who you are,” the group said on Twitter.