On Monday, President Joe Biden officially reversed former President Donald Trump’s ban on transgendered individuals serving in the U.S. military via executive order.
“President Biden believes that gender identity should not be a bar to military service, and that America’s strength is found in its diversity,” said a White House statement provided to American Military News. “The All-Volunteer Force thrives when it is composed of diverse Americans who can meet the rigorous standards for military service, and an inclusive military strengthens our national security.”
Biden’s executive order immediately bans “involuntary separations, discharges, and denials of reenlistment or continuation of service on the basis of gender identity or under circumstances relating to gender identity” and further orders a review of service members who were separated, discharged, or denied reenlistment or separation of service for those same conditions.
“Transgender servicemembers will no longer be subject to the possibility of discharge or separation on the basis of gender identity; transgender servicemembers can serve in their gender when transition is complete and the gender marker in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) is changed and transgender servicemembers should know that they are accepted throughout the US military,” the order stated.
Former President Donald Trump had informally announced the transgender ban in July 2017 on Twitter. The policy was officially implemented in April 2019, barring any individual receiving treatment for gender dysphoria from serving.
Gender dysphoria is the official term for a condition consisting of an individual’s conflict between their perceived gender and their sex at birth. Service members who identified as transgender but had not received a gender dysphoria diagnosis or treatment were eligible to continue serving, but only by their biological sex.
In 2018, former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the policy to allow transgender troops was damaging to the military’s readiness and lethality. After a months-long review of the issue, Mattis had determined that those diagnosed with gender dysphoria also experience dangerous side effects such as suicide, anxiety, depression and drug addiction, and that surgeries and therapies were not successful in alleviating these side effects.
On Monday, the White House said a DOD-ordered study in 2016 found “only a minimal impact on military readiness and healthcare costs.”
“Allowing all qualified Americans to serve their country in uniform is better for the military and better for the country because an inclusive force is a more effective force. Simply put, it’s the right thing to do and is in our national interest,” the White House statement added.
While more than 1.3 million individuals serve in the military on active duty, an estimated 2,400 to 15,000 service members are transgendered.
Biden’s Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said during his confirmation hearing last week that he supported removing the ban.
“If you’re fit and you’re qualified to serve and you can maintain the standards, you should be allowed to serve and you can expect that I will support that throughout,” Austin said at the time.
Also last week on the day of his inauguration, Biden signed an executive order to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation.