On Monday, January 25th, the newly inaugurated President Biden signed an executive order lifting the Trump-era ban on transgender members in our military. Also included was an order for an immediate halt of involuntary discharges of transgender troops already serving. Retroactively, the Pentagon will review records of any service members forced out due to their transgender status in recent years and correct all military records of troops affected by the ban.
According to the Palm Center, there are an estimated 15,000 transgender troops already serving in the U.S. military. Following the Trump Administration’s transgender ban in 2017, leaders from the four branches of the military each stated these troops caused no negative effects to operations. Notably, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said, “We have a finite number. We know who they are, and it is monitored very closely, because, you know, I’m concerned about that, and want to make sure that they are, in fact, treated with dignity and respect. And no, I have received precisely zero reports.” These troops have dedicated themselves to service and have shown that their gender identity has no impact on their fitness to be part of our nation’s military.
A Rand Corporation study found that transgender military personnel do not affect operational readiness or unit cohesion. Even using the highest estimate, less than 0.1% would seek gender transition–related treatment that would affect their ability to deploy. In comparison, the Army alone in 2015 had their operational readiness minimized due to over 50,000 active troops, or 14 percent, being ineligible to deploy for various legal, medical, or administrative reasons. Objections to recognizing openly transgender members of the U.S. military are based largely on the same flawed logic that created the infamous “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that was finally eliminated in September 2011. Indeed, evidence from foreign militaries and the U.S. military demonstrates there is no such impact on unit cohesion when transgender and gay troops serve openly.
The U.S. military has made enormous strides over the past century in honoring our diverse forces and encouraging inclusiveness and tolerance; even sometimes leading the charge in shaping civil rights movements in the U.S. Famously, in 1948, President Truman ordered the desegregation of our armed forces which became a crucial step that inspired other parts of American society to desegregate. During the Obama Administration, women were able to begin serving in infantry roles and a ban against gay troops was lifted. All troops, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation, must endure the same rigorous training and standards. Our country’s national security is best served when troops are recruited and retained based on merit alone.
Justin works as one of our National Appeals Attorneys. He is a former Army National Guard soldier passionate for representing and advocating for veterans and victims of underprivileged circumstances