The Pentagon has marked the Transgender Day of Visibility by lifting a Trump-era ban on trans people serving openly in the US military.
On Thursday (31 March) the US Defence Department unveiled a new policy allowing trans people to serve openly, repealing Trump’s restrictions and effectively returning Pentagon personnel policy to the Obama years.
The new regulations will allow trans people who meet military standards to enlist and serve openly in their self-identified gender, and they will be able to access medically necessary transition-related care authorised by law, according to The Associated Press.
“On this International Transgender Day of Visibility, we recognise the great strides our nation has made raising awareness of the challenges faced by the transgender community,” reads an official memo from Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III.
“Their shared stories of struggle and heartache remind us that more work needs to be done to ensure that every person is treated with dignity and respect no matter how they identify.
“To that end, I am pleased to announce that we have updated departmental policy governing the open service of transgender individuals in the military.”
The memo concludes: “The US military is the greatest fighting force on the planet because we are composed of an all-volunteer team willing to stand up and defend the rights and freedoms of all Americans.
“And we will remain the best and most capable team because we avail ourselves of the best possible talent America has to offer, regardless of gender identity.”
The news was celebrated by LGBT+ activists who have been pushing back against the ban for the past four years.
“We are thrilled the military is putting this ugly and shameful chapter in our nation’s history behind us and once again embracing our nation’s highest ideals of equal opportunity for all,” said Shannon Minter, legal director at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, speaking to Vox.
“Eliminating the ban recognises the valuable contributions transgender service members have made, and it will increase our nation’s strength and stability.”
The executive order allowing trans troops to serve openly in the military was signed in January as one of the Joe Biden’s first acts as president.
The order overturned Donald Trump’s reviled trans ban and directed the Department of Defence to create new trans-inclusionary guidelines.
When Trump introduced the ban in 2017 he claimed the military needed to focus on “decisive and overwhelming victory” without being burdened by the “tremendous medical costs” of trans personnel and their medical transitions.
In actual fact, between 2016 and 2019 trans healthcare cost the US military less than one per cent of its total health budget – and according to data seen by the New York Times, the former president’s own tax avoidance cost almost three times more.