BREAKING: Pentagon finalizing plans to lift ban on transgender individuals in military

The Associated Press is reporting that the Pentagon is finalizing plans to lift the ban on transgender people from serving in the military. The Obama administration has remained relatively quiet on the issue, but reports from earlier this year suggested that the military was open to reviewing their policy on transgender servicemembers.

As Zach Ford wrote at ThinkProgress in December, the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” allowed gay and lesbian people to serve openly in the military, but the branches each retained their own policies specifically banning transgender people. In August of last year, the Department of Defense reversed similar rules — one of which stipulated that anyone with”defects of the genitalia” was unfit for service. These rules were replaced with guidelines stipulating that people with medical conditions would have to have their conditions reviewed before being accepted for service, but only disorders that directly affected an individual’s ability to serve could be cause for rejection. Being transgender does not fit that description, as the American Psychiatric Association no longer considers it a mental illness.

This shift cleared the way for a review as to whether or not the individual branches’ rules still made sense. They didn’t. As Ford continued:

The only obstacle blocking transgender service then is the fact that the individual branches have not updated their policies to match the DOD’s. The Palm Center report notes that by maintaining categorical prohibitions, the services are enforcing regulations that “are too sweeping” because they do not distinguish conditions that impair fitness for assignment or duty from those — like being trans — that don’t. In other words, transgender identities remain a disqualification for purely tautological reasons.

As John Oliver described just over two weeks ago, the military’s policy on transgender individuals serving amounted to a recruitment poster reading: “I Want You. Maybe. After We Talk About Your Genitals for a Bit.”

Of course, this policy makes no sense. We currently have a military in which commanding officers are thanking transgender soldiers for the invaluable work they have done — and acknowledging their gender identity — while serving them discharge papers.

The Pentagon, via Wikimedia Commons

The Pentagon, via Wikimedia Commons

There are currently an estimated 15,500 transgender individuals serving in the military. Clearly, they have not diminished the combat readiness of our troops. Nearly every argument for continuing to spend time and energy discharging them that doesn’t boil down to “I think they’re gross,” and that isn’t an argument that deserves serious consideration. The only one that doesn’t — that transgender individuals often rely on hormone treatments that could become unavailable in long-term combat posts, is belied by the fact that other individuals with similar needs are not barred from service. As The Washington Post outlined in April:

Privately, some military officials argue that transgender soldiers could not serve in hardship posts, because they rely on hormone treatments. Transgender advocates point out that troops with other medication requirements, such as diabetics, are not automatically disqualified from service.

Being transgender says nothing about one’s ability to serve in the military. Lifting the ban makes good moral sense and good military sense. It’s high time the Pentagon finalized the change.

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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29 Responses to “BREAKING: Pentagon finalizing plans to lift ban on transgender individuals in military”

  1. mhandrh says:

    Sorry — wrong post.

  2. mhandrh says:

    Is God endorsing all of them? It seems that the all have claimed that God has sanctioned their run for the presidency — they all “heard” from him.

  3. White&Blue says:


  4. Bill_Perdue says:

    I don’t know of any single link but these are useful:

  5. kurtsteinbach says:

    I’m an English teacher, so here’s a professional critique of your metaphor. It was so opaque and so lacking in substance as to be indecipherable. . . .

  6. White&Blue says:

    I’m glad to know that we are on the same page on this. It is worrying when people believe Fox in these issues. Especially when in serving in the military. (Or pretty much anyone anywhere) And thank you for clarifying what you do with soldiers. It didn’t come up earlier and I was unsure what your position on the subject was. Before ending our conversation, I’d appreciate a link with info about the US’ involvement in Syria. I haven’t been following the situation there for a while so I’m out of the loop.

  7. Bill_Perdue says:

    An all volunteer army is a very different thing than a draft army.

    During the Vietnam ERA soldiers began to desert, engage in large scale fragging and refuse to fight. That, along with the successes of the antiwar movement and the heroism and intransigence of the Vietnamese brought the war to an end. (see photo below of Vietnam Era antiwar soldiers)

    There are signs of discontent among the military forces that need to be encouraged but there are also signs that many in the the current volunteer army have bought into the right wing policies of mass murder ordered or promoted by the Bushes, the Clintons and Obama. (see the two photos below) The mass murder of civilians is a central feature of US military operations in Libya, Egypt, Palestine, Yemen, Syria, Bahrain, Iraq (again), Afghanistan and Pakistan. No one with an ounce of decency would want to be part of that and the left will do all we can to discourage enlistment and encourage the GI antiwar movement.

  8. White&Blue says:

    A fair point indeed. And I agree that most people have heard of those things. I may have said my point in a bad way (English is not my primary), so allow me to elaborate. I believe that the people joining the military know of the things you mentioned. The question is, do they perceive those incidents as genocide/war crime,etc. Some individuals probably have been living in the Faux Noise bubble, and thus consider the military perfect and infallible. They couldn’t care less about the incidents. They see all the wars justifiable and fair. These types are the ones you mentioned. “I had no idea” obviously means “I did, but didn’t care”. Living in a bubble,as we know, tends to do that.

    On the opposite side of this, are the idealists. They are aware of the incidents, but they either believe that such things do not happen (basically living in a bubble like their Fox counterparts) or they believe that they can change the military from the inside for the better. (An admirable idea, hard to say if it is doable)

    The last group of people might be aware of the things, but aren’t in a position to refuse employment with the military. (Whether this is voluntarily or not is for another discussion) Cities and towns with an army base often solely rely on it due to the jobs it creates for people. (I’ve seen this, believe me) For some, the only way to escape poverty might be to join the military, since no other options for employment are available. (Something, I believe you wish to change)

    You’ve made good points and I’m not criticizing you when I say this, I only wish to advise: I’m sure you aim is to have as many people from all walks of life take part in social causes. Your country’s army is one place this can be done,after all, what can the government do when their army refuses to work for them anymore? (Just ask Nikolai II) I’m positive there are people who agree with you on your issues. You said that “No one with an ounce of decency would voluntarily be a part of the US military.” This unfortunately sounds that you lump together the average soldier with the torturers in Abu Ghraib for example. They might feel that they are unjustly attacked as individuals when they feel the problem is with the organisation (or the government). The best way to gain allies is by not insulting them,after all. EDIT: My point in this, is that the people joining the military aren’t all evil. There are many reasons for joining. People’s choices aren’t always black and white and that is what I wish to point out to you. Sorry for the long text but I hope this clarifies my point.

  9. Bill_Perdue says:

    I’d need to see some proof that there are adults want to enlist who’ve never heard of the US genocides in Iraq and Vietnam or US wars of aggression against dozens of other countries and against native peoples in the Americas. I don’t’ think you find any.

    In 1945 and 1946 lots of Germans, many of them ‘former’ Nazis, were rounded up and forced to visit death camps and concentration camps and many were forced into burial details. They kept whining “I had no idea”.

  10. White&Blue says:

    I suspect that there are decent people who volunteer for the army. They aren’t aware of any faults, since they’ve learned (or been taught) that the army is perfect and they’re doing the right thing by joining it. For example, if a child grows in a military family, s/he would most likely believe that the military is a good place, since his/her parents worked there. That person wouldn’t know better. A question to Jon: I’ve heard that the US military receives far more adoration compared to militaries in other countries,even perhaps to the point obsession. Is this true?

  11. Indigo says:


  12. Nelson Kerr says:

    Realistically,. your being comply ignorant about the military is far more likely than it being a metaphor.

  13. Butch1 says:

    Glad to see this happen.

  14. Indigo says:

    Fascinating how a reader can zoom past a metaphor faster than a space probe flying past Pluto.

  15. nicho says:

    Or we could just have a national meeting and get over our adolescent obsession about seeing body parts of the opposite sex. It’s not that big a deal.

  16. Bill_Perdue says:

    No one with an ounce of decency would voluntarily be a part of the US military. It’s a murder machine to make corporations richer.

    “I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902–1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.” USMC Commandant and Major General S.M. Butler From the from the November 1935 issue of the social democratic magazine Common Sense

  17. kurtsteinbach says:

    I am a heterosexual man. I was in the U.S. navy. I think the frat boy mentality of, “Boys will be boys,” is indulged way too much in and by the U.S. military. This does not just include young adults in the military. It included middle aged and older people, when they have those “Frat Boy” impulses. It’s part of the reason that after my hitch, my time was up, I did not reenlist. When I did go to college, people asked me if I was going to join a Fraternity. I said, no thanks. I was in the Navy, remember. If you’ve ever been bullied, you don’t want to stay in, and you don’t want to subject others to what you experienced.

  18. kurtsteinbach says:

    Correct, those with male anatomical structures, a penis would shower with the men, and those with breasts and vagina would shower with the women. That would cover units that include both men and women. They would still have separate men and women quarters and showers. BTW, contary to popular belief, not all showers are communal. On board ship, showers are individual to conserve water and space. . . .

  19. kurtsteinbach says:

    What 5 star generals are you talking about? There are no 5 star generals or admirals in the U.S. military and have been none since WWII. This is a welcome move that is a long time coming, ever since Clinton was forced to put DADTDI into place because a GOP Congress threatened to enact a law banning LGB service members if he changed military policy back in the 1990s. The GOP Congress had the votes to do so, now the will of the country, the people has changed. DADTDI was never properly followed anyway.

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  21. heimaey says:

    Ah got it – yes. Good point!

  22. trinu says:

    Since the only way for them to serve currently is to be in the closet, that would be serving with those who have the same anatomical sex (presumably post-op trans servicemembers and those on hormones would not be able to successfully remain closeted in a military setting).

  23. Indigo says:

    Considering the excruciating, tortoise-like pace at which the Pentagon adapts to any new situation, from guerrilla warfare to updating computers, I’m surprised that transgender issues have even broken through the 5 star awareness barrier.

  24. heimaey says:

    Well what are they doing now? Probably the same thing.

  25. trinu says:

    As I understand it, the military has communal showers. Is there any news on what the policy will be reagarding those? Will trans people shower along their fellow service members of the same gender identity, smae anatomy, or use single-occupancy showers?

  26. Ashley_Walker says:

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  27. 2karmanot says:

    “Being transgender says nothing about one’s ability to serve in the
    military. Lifting the ban makes good moral sense and good military
    sense. It’s high time the Pentagon finalized the change.” EXACTLY SO!
    Considering the penchant for ignoring exceptionally high institutional rape incidences, we can just imagine the nightmare Trans soldiers will face in peer environments.

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