The U.S. military will allow transgender people to serve openly in the military for the first time in U.S. history.
“This is the right thing to do for our people and for the force,” Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said Thursday. “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."
The new rules will be phased in over the course of one year. Effective immediately, transgender people in the military now will not be discharged. After one year, transgender people will be permitted to join the military, including attending the academies or Reserve Officers’ Training Corps programs.
The decision comes nearly a year after Carter announced the Pentagon would review its policies on transgender service. Back then, Carter called the current regulations an “outdated, confusing, inconsistent approach.”
Transgender people currently serve in all five branches of the U.S. military. But the military still recognizes them by their gender at birth, and requires members to adhere to uniform standards of that gender. Under current rules, transgender people are considered physically and psychologically unfit to serve. Rules prohibit those with a “current or history of psychosexual conditions, including but not limited to transsexualism, exhibitionism, transvestism, voyeurism, and other paraphilias” or those with “history of major abnormalities or defects of the genitalia including but not limited to change of sex” from serving in the military.