On Wednesday, the department announced it has updated two internal polices to make it easier for transgender individuals to join up and access medical treatment while serving. The policies, which go into effect April 30, also protect transgender individuals from discrimination within the services.
The revised policies prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity and “restore the department’s original 2016 policies regarding transgender service,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said. They also “provide a path of service for medical treatment, gender transition and recognition in one’s self-identified gender,” Kirby added.
“This is reinstating a position that the previous commanders and, as well as the secretaries, have supported. And what I’m doing is enabling all qualified Americans to serve their country in uniform,” Biden said, speaking from the Oval Office just before signing the executive order in January.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced the updated policies on the International Transgender Day of Visibility, a day dedicated to honor and empower the lives of transgender and nonbinary people.
“The United States armed forces are in the business of defending our fellow citizens from our enemies foreign and domestic, I believe we accomplish that mission more effectively when we represent all our fellow citizens,” Austin said in a statement. “I also believe we should avail of ourselves of the best possible talent in our population regardless of gender identity. We would be rending ourselves less fit to the task if we excluded from our ranks people who meet our standards and have the skills and the standards to serve in uniform.”
Biden’s executive orders also triggered a Department of Defense review of anyone who was either “involuntarily separated, discharged or denied re-enlistment based on gender identity,” Kirby said. This review is ongoing, he added.
Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center, said the updated policies were a “big step.” The Palm Center is an independent research institute that has conducted extensive research on sexual minorities in the military.
“This is a big step toward making our military stronger and fairer, and it recognizes years of research showing that a single standard for all service members improves readiness and allows for the widest possible pool of qualified personnel,” Belkin told CNN in a statement. “We will continue to monitor the re-integration of transgender troops, and to help ensure that every American willing and able to serve has the opportunity to defend their country.”
Trump first announced the ban on Twitter in July 2017, arguing transgender people in the military would lead to “tremendous medical costs and disruption.”