In the past, the Pentagon has taken major strides in eliminating various forms of discrimination within the military:
During 1948 the Democratic National Convention's platform called for desegregation of the Armed Forces. President Harry S. Truman subsequently issued Executive Order 9981 which eventually abolished racial discrimination in the military. 1
During 1993, Congress adopted the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy and President Clinton signed it into law. This allowed lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals to freely serve in the military, as long as they concealed their sexual orientation. However, if they reveal it even on one occasion, their service was routinely terminated. This policy was abolished on 2011-SEP-20, so that military personnel with minority sexual orientations can now serve openly in the military.
In recent years, opportunities for women in the military have gradually expanded. However, combat assignments are still heavily restricted to them.
Until mid-2016, transgender and transsexual military personnel had been considered mentally ill. If detected, they were not allowed to join, or to continue to serve in, the military.
2016-JUN-30: The Pentagon announced that transgender service members will be allowed to openly serve in the military for the first time:
Ash Carter, the Secretary of Defense, announced that:
"... This is the right thing to do for our people and for the force. We’re talking about talented Americans who are serving with distinction or who want the opportunity to serve. We can’t allow barriers unrelated to a person’s qualifications prevent us from recruiting and retaining those who can best accomplish the mission." 2
A related press release stated:
"The DoD policy announced today also establishes a construct by which service members may transition gender while serving, sets standards for medical care and outlines responsibilities for military services and commanders to develop and implement guidance, training and specific policies in the near and long-term."
"The policy will be phased in during a one-year period. Effective immediately, service members may no longer be involuntarily separated, discharged or denied reenlistment solely on the basis of gender identity. [Transgender] service members currently on duty will be able to serve openly. ..."
"Over the course of the next year, the Department will finalize force training plans and implementation guidance, revise regulations and forms, and train the force, including commanders, human resources specialists, recruiters and service members. Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Peter Levine will work with the military services to monitor and oversee this effort.
At one year [into the program], the services will begin allowing transgender individuals to join the armed forces, assuming they meet accession standards. In addition, an otherwise-qualified individual’s gender identity will not be considered a bar to admission to a military service academy, or participation in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps or any other accession program if the individual meets the new criteria.
The full policy must be completely implemented no later than July 1, 2017." 2
Plans for implementing the program:
A training handbook will be issued for the guidance of commanders, service members who are transgender, and the force.
Guidance in providing transition-related care for transgender service members will be published and distributed to medical personnel.
The Military Health System will be required to provide transgender service members with all medical care related to their transition.
Service members will be able to start officially changing their gender in the military's personnel management systems.
Between 2016-OCT and 2017-JUN:
The entire Armed Forces will be trained, including commanders, medical personnel, operating forces, and recruiters.
Once a transgender service member's gender marker is changed in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) to indicate their gender identity, they will serve and their gender will be recognized according to their current gender identity, not their birth-identified gender. 3
Some transgender service members may not be fully accepted in the military:
There appears to be no provision in the military's implementation plan for the relatively small minority of transgender persons and transsexuals who do not currently identify as being of either gender.
This implementation plan seems to assume that all potential and serving members of the military are either:
Cisgender persons -- those who identify their current gender as the same as their birth-identified gender, or
Transgender persons -- those who identify their current gender as the opposite of their birth-identified gender. This implies that is all transgender persons and transsexuals are either:
"MTF:" they were identified as male at birth and now identify as female, or
"FTM:" they were identified as female at birth and now identify as male.
These two groups include the vast majority of transgender persons and transsexuals. But a minority currently identify as being neither female or male. Gender has no meaning for them. It appears that they will still have to be recorded in the DEERS program as either male or female. "No Gender" does not seem to be an option. ... at least that option is not included in any of the press releases and articles.
Negative reactions to the Pentagon's plan:
On 2015-JUN-26, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriages across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and four out of five territories. 4 Many religious, political, and social conservative individuals and agencies in the U.S. switched much of their effort from opposing marriage equality for same-sex couples to opposing equal rights for transgender individuals and transsexuals.
In an article titled: "Pentagon Fiddles with Gender While World Burns," writers at the Family Research Council (FRC) discussed the ending of discrimination against transgender individuals in the military. They said:
"President Obama may be reluctant to even name radical Islamic terrorists as our enemy around the world, but he is determined to use our armed forces to fight the culture war at home." 5
The cause of the "culture war" to which FRC writers refer is being caused by different belief systems concerning transgender persons:
Many religious, social, and political conservatives believe that a person's gender is defined and recorded at birth by the shape of their genitals. Once identified as either male or female, they remain the same gender throughout their life and are referred to as her or him, and she or he accordingly. Many believe that transgender persons are "gender confused" and need therapy to correct their gender identity.
Many religious, social, and political liberals, the LGBT community, human sexuality researchers, and therapists believe that a small percentage of the population develops a gender identity later in life that is different from their birth-identified gender. In essence, the vast majority of transgender persons are believed to have a body of one gender and a brain of the opposite gender. They should be referred to as her or him, and she or he, according to their current gender identity. Many believe that everyone's brain contains small internal structures that are sexually dimorphic. In most transgender persons, these structures are sized and have a neuron density typical of the gender with which they identify.
Other articles in this series on transgender persons in the U.S. military:
Part 1: 2011/2012: Overview. Support. Current military policies. Care for veterans.
Part 3: 2016: More reactions -- positive and negative -- to the ending of discrimination
Part 10:2018-APR to 2019-JAN: Medical groups criticize the ban.
Father's Day. Billboard battle
in California. Anti-Trump Light Show. Trump loses at District Court
level, asks to bypass Courts of Appeal and go directly to the U.S. Supreme Court. High Court activates ban.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
"This Day in Truman History:
July 26, 1948:
President Truman issues Executive Order No. 9981 Desegregating the Military" Harry S. Truman Library & Museum, undated, at: https://www.trumanlibrary.org/
"Secretary of Defense Ash Carter Announces Policy for Transgender Service Members," U.S. Department of Defense, 2016-JUN-30, at: http://www.defense.gov/
"Transgender Service Member Policy Implementation Fact Sheet," U.S. Department of Defense, 2016-JUN-30, at: http://www.defense.gov/ This is a PDF document.
The territory of American Samoa is the exception. Most people there are considered American residents, not American citizens. Thus the High Court decision does not necessarily apply there.