Today at the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced a much anticipated end to the ban on open service by transgender service members. The announcement comes more than a year after Secretary Carter promised that the Department of Defense (DoD) would update the outdated regulations which prevent open service by transgender service members and the launch of a working group to assess the impact of the change and work out the details.
“Words cannot express how much this announcement means to so many of our transgender service members and their families — brave men and women who have proudly served our nation in silence for far too long,” said AMPA President Ashley Broadway-Mack. “We are incredibly grateful to Secretary Carter for bringing this promise to fruition. While we still have progress to make, today is truly historic and our military families will be stronger as a result of these critically important and long overdue changes.”
“This historic change means that I can finally serve openly and proudly as who I am — a soldier who loves my country and just happens to be transgender,” said AMPA member Nick Melvin, who is currently stationed in Hawaii. “A huge weight has been lifted off of my shoulder. I can continue serving my nation and support my family, which means the world!”
With the announcement today, Secretary Carter said, “This is the right thing to do for our people and for the force. 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.”
In March of 2015, AMPA launched an unprecedented joint report with the Transgender American Veterans Association (TAVA) highlighting the tremendous harm the outdated regulations inflict on military families. The report notes, “The outdated regulations serve no purpose and only dehumanize and prevent qualified and capable individuals from enlisting and serving. The ban perpetuates trauma to all those involved, both the service member and their family.”
The Department of Defense provided the following information about the announcement:
“The policy will be phased in during a one-year period. Effective immediately, service members may no longer be involuntarily separated, discharged or denied reenlistment solely on the basis of gender identity. Service members currently on duty will be able to serve openly.
Not later than October 1, 2016, DoD will create and distribute a commanders’ training handbook, medical protocol and guidance for changing a service member’s gender in the Defense Eligibility Enrollment System (DEERS). 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. Prior to October 1, 2016, requests for medical treatment will be handled on a case-by- case basis consistent with the spirit of the Directive Type Memorandum and the DoD Instruction issued today.
Over the course of the next year, the Department will finalize force training plans and implementation guidance, revise regulations and forms, and train the force, including commanders, human resources specialists, recruiters and service members. Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Peter Levine will work with the military services to monitor and oversee this effort.
At one year, the services will begin allowing transgender individuals to join the armed forces, assuming they meet accession standards. In addition, an otherwise-qualified individual’s gender identity will not be considered a bar to admission to a military service academy, or participation in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps or any other accession program if the individual meets the new criteria.
The full policy must be completely implemented no later than July 1, 2017.
To support service members, medical professionals and commanders during the implementation period, the DoD has set up a central coordination cell which will serve as a central point of contact for technical questions and concerns. The coordination cell is made up of legal experts, policy experts and medical professionals familiar with the issue.”
- Transgender Service Member Policy Implementation Fact Sheet
- Memo: Military Service of Transgender Service Members
- DoDI: In-Service Transition for Service Members Identifying as Transgender
- RAND Report: Assessing the Implications of Allowing Transgender Personnel to Serve Openly
- Fact Sheet Timeline
- DoD Webpage on Transgender Policy