The Pentagon has officially lifted its long-time ban on transgender service members. The lift was officially announced on July 1, 2016.
USA Today reported earlier this year that the ban is expected to be lifted by sometime in the first week of July, possibly as early as July 1. They cited a paper that states each branch of the military will have one year to “to implement new policies affecting recruiting, housing and uniforms for transgender troops.” As it turns out USA Today’s prediction was accurate.
The proposed lift had been discussed for months before being approved. A working group was assigned to assessing necessary policy changes to accommodate transgender individuals but was reportedly delayed due to an undisclosed disagreement within the Department of Defense. These delays caused them to miss their “early 2016” deadline.
Suspicions of the policy change were bolstered when the U.S. Army announced it would allow the first openly transgender squad leader to continue to serve as an active duty service member.
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter commented on the subject in May. He insinuated that the ban would be lifted but it wouldn’t be a decision that the military would rush into. He stated:
“We do things in a careful, thoughtful manner, and I’m confident we’re going to get to the right place,”
The Pentagon has been relatively silent on what was causing the delay. However, the Air Force Times has speculated that details related to dress codes, grooming standards, PT requirements, and whether or not military health care will cover hormone therapy and other sex-change procedures have slowed the process. The Air Force Times published on their site:
The Pentagon may also have to sort out other, military-specific questions, such as when transgender troops begin adhering to a new dress code and grooming standards, how their fitness standards would change, and whether the military health care system would provide them with hormone replacement therapy or gender reassignment surgery.
Carter argues that the “outdated policies and procedures” that prevent transgender soldiers from serving prevents them from pursing opportunities offered to other Americans and distracts the military from obtaining it’s core goals.
It appears the U.S. military was able to resolve the minor issues slowing the lift of the ban to announce the ban on time.