The Pentagon issued new rules this week effectively undoing the Trump Administration’s discriminatory ban on transgender people serving in the military, and replacing it with expanded access to medical care for trans individuals.
Chief Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters Wednesday that under the new Biden Administration, transgender people who meet military standards will not only be allowed to enlist and serve openly in their self-identified gender, they’ll also be allowed to get medically necessary transition-related care, according to the Associated Press.
The changes, which were announced on International Trans Day of Visibility, came two months after President Joe Biden took office and signed dozens of executive orders, one of which specifically initiated the development of the new policies around trans people in the military.
“The United States military is the greatest fighting force on the planet, because we are composed of an all-volunteer team willing to step up and defend the rights and freedoms of all Americans,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement Wednesday. “We will remain the best and most capable team, because we avail ourselves of the best possible talent that America has to offer, regardless of gender identity."
Until 2016, U.S. service members could be discharged from the military for being transgender. Under President Obama, the Pentagon said openly trans people would be allowed to enlist by July 2017.
However, after President Trump took office in January 2017, he initially delayed the enlistment date and called for more studies to be done. He then surprised military leaders a few weeks later by tweeting that the government wouldn’t allow transgender people to serve in the military “in any capacity,” as the AP reports.
Under the Biden Administration, the Pentagon's new trans-inclusive policies will align the U.S. with more than 20 other countries that currently allow open trans military service.
Hours after the Pentagon announced the new military policy, President Joe Biden issued the first presidential proclamation recognizing Transgender Day of Visibility, which he said is meant to recognize the generations of activism by transgender and nonbinary people.
"Their trailblazing work has given countless transgender individuals the bravery to live openly and authentically,” Biden wrote. “This hard-fought progress is also shaping an increasingly accepting world in which peers at school, teammates and coaches on the playing field, colleagues at work, and allies in every corner of society are standing in support and solidarity with the transgender community."