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Biden Pentagon reverses Trump’s transgender ban, will allow trans troops to serve openly in preferred gender

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, joined by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, tour the Pentagon Wednesday, Feb. 10. 2021, in Arlington, Virginia. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)
March 31, 2021

On Wednesday, President Joe Biden’s Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announced the Department of Defense is now allowing transgender service members to serve openly and be recognized as their chosen gender and the Department of Defense will “provide a path for those in service for medical treatment” and “gender transition.”

Austin announced the decision two months after President Joe Biden ordered a reversal of President Donald Trump’s policy banning troops diagnosed with gender dysphoria from serving in the military. Now, in an announcement coinciding with Trans Day of Visibility, Austin tweeted, “Trans rights are human rights, and on this #TransDayOfVisibility, I’m pleased to announce we’ve updated DoD policy on the open service of transgender individuals. The update reinforces our prior decision to allow recruitment, retention, and care of qualified trans individuals.”

In an accompanying statement, the Department of Defense said, “The revised policies prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or an individual’s identification as transgender, provide a means by which to access into the military in one’s self-identified gender provided all appropriate standards are met, provide a path for those in service for medical treatment, gender transition, and recognition in one’s self-identified gender, and seeks to protect the privacy of all Service members and to treat all Service members with dignity and respect.”

The DoD also updated its Medical Standards for Appointment, Enlistment, or Induction into the Military Services. Among the changes, the guidance no states “A history of sex reassignment or genital reconstruction surgery is disqualifying unless all of the following conditions are met, as certified by a licensed medical provider: a) A period of 18 months has elapsed since the date of the most recent of any such surgery. b) No functional limitations or complications persist, and no additional surgery is required.”

The DoD further updated its instructions for gender transitions for troops already in the service, stating the military may provide cross-sex hormone therapy if they deem it medically necessary for a service member.

The Trump administration raised concern about the military being burdened with extra medical costs for transgender troops, but Buzzfeed reported Stephanie Miller, the Pentagon director of military accession policy, told reporters she expected healthcare costs to run a “handful of a million dollars per year.”

The new transgender service policies will officially take affect in one month on April 30.

Following the announcement, Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said, “President Biden promised to create a diverse and inclusive administration that reflects our country’s values, and today’s change in policy at the Department of Defense is another step towards making that vision a reality.”

Smith said, “For years, these Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Coast Guardsman, Marines, and Guardians continued to serve despite the harmful policies they were operating under. Our military is the strongest in the world because of the brave individuals who have volunteered to defend our rights, freedoms, and values and today’s change in policy honors each and every one of them. This change in policy allows transgender individuals, who are otherwise qualified, to honorably serve, making our Armed Services a stronger and more diverse force. Thanks to this change in policy, new recruits may enter the service in their preferred gender marker and those serving may serve openly and obtain the medical services and support needed to continue to serve in their preferred gender marker.”