THE US Secretary of Defence Ash Carter detailed changes that would lift the ban on trans people from serving openly in the United States military in a press conference at the Pentagon on June 30.
“Effective immediately, transgender Americans may serve openly and they can no longer be discharged or otherwise separated from the military just for being transgender,” Carter said.
Earlier in the briefing, Carter explained the reason for the changes.
“The Defence Department and the military need to avail ourselves of all talent possible in order to remain what we are now, the finest fighting force the world has ever known,” Carter said.
“Our mission is to defend this country and we don’t want barriers unrelated to a person’s qualification to serve preventing us from recruiting or retaining the solder, sailor, airman, or marine who can best accomplish the mission.”
The Secretary of Defence quoted existing studies estimating there to be around 2,500 active-duty service members and 1,400 reserve service members who identified as trans in the U.S. military.
“Although relatively few in number, we’re talking about talented and trained Americans who are serving their country with honour and distinction,” Carter said.
He acknowledged the reality of trans service members already serving.
“I have a responsibility to them and to their commanders to provide them both with clearer and more consistent guidance than is provided by current policies,” Carter said.
Carter noted that most transgender service members had to go outside the military’s infrastructure to access medical requirements, that they then must pay for out of their own pockets.
Health care is notoriously expensive in the United States. An extensive study was initiated last July on the issue.
One of the areas the study looked into was the issue of transgender members serving in the military overseas.
“It’s worth noting, for example, that at least 18 countries already allow transgender personnel to serve openly in their militaries,” Carter said.
“These include close allies such as the United Kingdom, Israel, and Australia.”
The Secretary of Defence acknowledged that it wasn’t enough to declare the change and do nothing.
Carter then went into a variety of practical issues to ensure a seamless implementation.
Some of these practical solutions included issuing a commander’s guidebook on transgender matters and instructing medical facilities to provide the appropriate and necessary care.
A full transcript of the Secretary of Defence’s remarks can be read on the Department of Defence’s website.