Effective this month, transgender Americans may now serve openly in the U.S. military and can no longer be discharged or otherwise separated from the military just for being transgender.
This decision to allow transgender Americans is one of many recent changes that has resulted in a transformation of the military. The Department of Defense also recently opened all combat roles to women and appointed the first openly gay Army secretary.
Defense Secretary Carter said that the military's top leaders, including Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were on board with ending the prohibition on transgender service. Carter also said the Pentagon would cover the medical costs of those in uniform who are seeking to undergo gender transition, though it would expect new recruits who are transgender to spend at least 18 months in their transitioned gender identity before joining the military.
While the decision was heralded by LGBT groups and progressives, there remains stiff opposition to the change in policy from Congressional Republicans. Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, a Republican member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, called for the new policy to not be carried out until Congress could convene hearings. And Representative Mac Thornberry of Texas, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, released a statement saying he would examine “legislative options to address the readiness issues associated with this new policy.”
Secretary Carter said that while practicality played a role in the decision, it was also a "matter of principle."