Though some of the finer points regarding barracks and uniform have yet to to be figured out, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced that openly trans individuals will no longer be banned from serving in the military. Previously, they were medically discharged and were not permitted to reveal their gender identity.
Ash Carter on lifting transgender ban: “We have to have access to 100% of America’s population" pic.twitter.com/8di8RIrY8v— POLITICO (@politico) June 30, 2016
Only a few thousand soldiers in the military are trans. A few more are in the reserve. The number who seek medical treatment such as hormone therapy or surgery each year is in the double digits. The most famous trans soldier, Chelsea Manning, is no longer in the military and is imprisoned for the next three decades because she leaked documents relating to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
It seems fairly self-evident that if you wish to have a large, happy volunteer military, you should consider letting in anyone who wishes to do the work. Carter said as much today. He wants a fighting force that is picking from “100 percent of America’s population.”
Naysayers think that ‘they’ will ruin the military’s readiness and its togetherness. It doesn’t seem to, ever.
Fundamentally, any time the military has had to accept minorities of any kind, or women (women being minorities in the armed forces, I suppose), there have been naysayers who think that they will ruin the military’s readiness and its togetherness. It doesn’t seem to, ever. A Rand Corporation study concluded that gay people in the military didn’t dampen its hustle, and that letting trans people serve would be similarly not a problem. The potential healthcare cost increase for the military is also thought to be small.
Military leaders and parts of the population are always skeptical when these changes are made. There was doubt about the military’s ability to function as a mixed race unit before President Harry Truman desegregated the armed forces in 1948.
Republicans in particular continued to be dubious about women’s ability to serve, or at least their place in the military. This appears to be much of their motive for trying to prevent the amendment that would mandate women sign up for the Selective Service.
And once, long ago in the olden days of 1993, the odious “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” which basically let gay soldiers stay in the military as long as they never discussed it, was seen as a reasonable compromise. A reasonable compromise even when you had extremely useful translators being discharged from the military in the middle of the Iraq war. Even when you booted out 11,000 other soldiers for being gay while endlessly extending the deployments of others due to the supposed troop shortage.
The new policy of welcoming trans people into the military will take a year to fully go into effect, but starting now, trans soldiers will be able to be open without fear of official reprisal.