Today, Secretary of Defense, Ash Carter, in continuation of his goal to transition the United States Military from a traditional fighting force to an all-inclusive, no holds barred, social experiment, dropped the ban on trans-gendered people serving in the American Military. The change, effective immediately, completes the trend that began in 2011, when gays and lesbians were permitted to serve openly, abandoning the former “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. The LGBT community celebrates the victory today, after years of intense lobbying.
This policy change makes the United States the twentieth military force in the world to accept openly transgendered recruits, behind such countries as Australia, Israel, and Great Britain. A study conducted by the Rand Corporation was commissioned by Secretary Carter and the Pentagon, to study possible effects and complications inherent to transgender inclusion in the military services. The resulting report was issued in March of this year, and predicted “policy shift would have little to no impact and negligible costs on military cohesion or readiness.”
There are varying estimates for how many transgender members are currently serving, from an estimated 2500 to 15,000. It has been difficult to determine an accurate number because of the ban, and fear of being discharged from service, if discovered. Though it may seem counter-intuitive to many, some estimates put transgender participation in the military significantly higher than that of the general population. There are several theories as to why that is, but no conclusive determinations.
There are still challenges and hurdles to clear in terms of compliance with the new change. Officials have 90 days to determine how policies will be affected in the following areas:
- How the military health system will provide care to transgender troops, to include medical support for gender transitions.
- When a transgender service member will begin adhering to a different gender’s grooming standards and uniform-wear rules.
- How and when a transgender service member will transition to new physical fitness standards.
- When a commander should consider moving transgender soldiers into alternative barracks or berthing quarters.
- How unit-level commanders should address a range of issues related to deployments, job assignments and training that may arise among troops undergoing gender transition.
- How troops can undergo the bureaucratic process for changing their gender marker in the official Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System, known as DEERS.
By the beginning of 2017, training will begin for commanders, health care personnel, recruiters, and the forces regarding new regulations and transgenders. By July 2017, the services will “begin to allow transgender recruits to enlist or be commissioned to the officer corps.” Prospective recruits can and will continue to be turned away, unless medical doctors can provide proof of stability and absence of “significant distress or other impairment.”
In November 2008, Americans elected Barack Obama under the slogan of “Hope and Change.” He promised to fundamentally change our nation during his term in office, and over the last eight years, we’ve seen an activist Executive Branch and a split Judicial Branch battling to accelerate more and greater legislative and cultural change, resulting in a country that may be more divided than at any other time in US history, barring the Civil War years.
America, we got what we asked for. We’ve definitely seen a fundamental change in our country from nearly every angle in the last eight years. Congratulations! How are you liking that “Hope and Change” now?