WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Defense plans to soon lift the nation’s ban on openly transgendered persons serving in the military, according to reports.
“[Defense Secretary Ash Carter] has indicated that he expects to make a final decision soon, and that’s exactly where we are,” Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook told reporters this past week.
As previously reported, last July, Carter announced that a six-month study would be conducted to determine whether lifting the ban could have any adverse effect on battle preparedness.
“The Defense Department’s current regulations regarding transgender service members are outdated and are causing uncertainty that distracts commanders from our core missions,” he said in a statement.
The study was to encompass a variety of aspects, such as how transgenders will be housed, what uniforms they will wear, what bathrooms they will use, and what physical fitness/training standards they will be held to as a person that now seeks to be known as the opposite gender.
Officials also planned to consider whether the government will pay for “gender reassignment” surgeries and other treatments sought by those who identify as transgender.
According to the Washington Post, acting personnel chief Peter Levine outlined last month that there was a lack of consensus among Pentagon officials on how to solve the questions presented in the study, but that it was decided that the ban would be lifted during Obama’s tenure.
“We’re going to work through that .. and we’re going to do it expeditiously so that we can do it in this administration,” he said.
The Department of Defense has banned those who have gender identity disorders from serving in the military since the 1960’s, and those who seek to identify as the opposite sex can be dismissed on medical grounds. Defense Department Instruction 6130.03 allows for the discharge of those who have been diagnosed with “psychosexual conditions, including but not limited to transsexualism, exhibitionism, transvestism, voyeurism, and other paraphilias.”
But following the 2010 decision to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” some have been pushing for a lift on the transgender service ban. Last year, the Pentagon decided that only high-ranking officials in the military would be permitted to have the discretion to discharge those diagnosed with gender dysphoria.
But some remain concerned over the rush to lift the ban before the November election.
“Secretary Carter has put the political agenda of a departing administration ahead of the military’s readiness crisis,” Mac Thornberry (R-TX), the chairman of the Congressional Committee on Armed Services, said in a statement on Friday. “The force is exhausted from back-to-back deployments and spending their home-station time scrambling to get enough equipment and training before they deploy again. My focus is on helping the troops now—to be the most effective, deployable force possible.”
“Consistent with that philosophy, when we learned DOD was looking at new policies on the service of transgender individuals, the Committee posed a number of questions to DOD. In particular, there are readiness challenges that first must be addressed, such as the extent to which such individuals would be medically non-deployable,” he said. “Almost a year has passed with no answer to our questions from Secretary Carter.”
It is believed that there are currently at least 2,000 military members that identify as transgender who have been hiding their condition in order to remain in the service.