“On Veterans Day, as we honor those who’ve served in the military, let us also lift up the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer service members. For decades courageous and dedicated LGBTQ people served in the U.S. military while hiding their true identity out of fear of being discharged. Today, while we have made significant strides with the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, transgender people are still denied the opportunity to serve openly in the military.
“That is why we’re again calling on the Defense Department to expedite their repeal of the ban on transgender people in the military.”
The U.S. Congress voted in December 2010 to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. That repeal was implemented by the Defense Department in September 2011. According to a May, 2014 report issued by The Williams Institute, there are about 15,500 transgender individuals serving on active duty or in the Guard or Reserve forces, and an estimated 134,300 transgender individuals who are veterans or are retired from Guard or Reserve service.
The exclusion of transgender individuals from military service is based on medical policies that lay out exclusions for what are deemed to be “psychosexual disorders,” including transsexualism, cross-dressing or a history of gender transition. If closeted transgender men and women serving in the military are outed, they face the possibility of a medical discharge.
In March 2014, the Palm Center released the “Report of the Transgender Military Service Commission,” which was co-chaired by former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Joceyln Elders and Rear Admiral Alan M. Steinman, M.D. That commission found “no compelling medical rationale for banning transgender military service.” The commission report also said that eliminating the ban would “advance a number of military interests, including enabling commanders to better care for their service members.
In addition, the report noted, “Medical regulations requiring the discharge of all transgender personnel are inconsistent with how the military regulates medical and psychological conditions, and arbitrary in that medical conditions related to transgender identity appear to be the only gender-related conditions requiring discharge irrespective of fitness for duty.”
The report ended with three recommendations: 1. Lift the ban on transgender military service. 2. Do not write new medical regulations. 3. Base new administrative guidance on foreign military and US government precedents.
A Pentagon working group tasked with dismantling the ban began meeting in July, just days after Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter issued a memo outlining how the ban will fall and instructing top military officials to prepare to integrate transgender service members within six months.
The Pentagon has just under two months to end the ban to meet Carter’s timeline.