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Pentagon allows openly transgender Americans to serve in the military

Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter removed the ban on openly transgender Americans serving in the military on Thursday, June 30. This milestone marks one of the final hurdles for Americans seeking to serve in the armed forces.

In the past, the lack of clarity on guidelines for handling transgender people in the military forced servicemen out of uniform. For instance, Army Capt. Sage Fox told her unit in November of 2013 that she was transgender. A month later, she was placed on inactive status and has done no reserve duty since.

In an interview with the New York Times, Fox said, “We’re military officers. We are trained to be adaptable, and I get so frustrated when people think we’re not going to be able to deal with this. You’re on a battlefield, the situation changes in the blink of an eye, we adapt and overcome. That’s what we do.”

Defense Secretary Carter stated that the Pentagon would cover gender transition costs, but require new recruits to spend 18 months in their transitioned gender identity before joining the ranks.

Carter said, “Americans who want to serve and can meet our standards should be afforded the opportunity to compete to do so,” he said. “After all, our all-volunteer force is built upon having the most qualified Americans. And the profession of arms is based on honor and trust.”

Researchers on the effects of LGBTQ people serving in the military say that welcoming women and transgender Americans along with the end of “don’t ask, don’t tell” are all about the same concept – job assignments should be based on merit, not sexual orientation or gender identity.

According to a study by the RAND Corporation and commissioned by Defense Secretary Carter, of the approximate 1.3 million active-duty service members, an estimated 2,450 were transgender, and about 65 service members would seek a gender transition each year. The study also showed that if the Pentagon did not cover the $2.9 million to $4.9 million per year of expenses for transitions, that transgender service members would probably not seek medical care and could be more prone of substance abuse and suicide.

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