Justice

The Military Is About to Make a Huge Announcement on Trans Rights

The Pentagon is finalizing its plan to lift the ban on transgender individuals in the military—a monumental move that is expected to be unveiled later this week. Though the U.S. abandoned its policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in September 2011, servicemen and women have still been subject to discharge for being transgender.

The services will have six months to "assess the impact of the change," according to the Associated Press. "Military chiefs wanted time to methodically work through the legal, medical, and administrative issues and develop training to ease any transition, and senior leaders believed six months would be sufficient."

"During that time, transgender individuals would still not be able to join the military, but any decisions to force out those already serving would be referred to the Pentagon's acting undersecretary for personnel," unnamed officials told the AP.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter is seeking "senior military and civilian leaders" to oversee the transition, and asked Brad Carson, his personnel undersecretary, to develop a working group for the task.

"Military leaders have pointed to the gradual—and ultimately successful—transition after the ban on gays serving openly in the military was lifted in 2011. Although legislation repealing the ban passed Congress in 2010, the military services spent months conducting training and reviews before the decision actually took effect the following September."

According to the Williams Institute, a legal think tank that looks at government policy on LGBT rights, approximately 15,500 transgender people serve in the military, though the Pentagon has routinely refused to disclose exactly how many have been discharged.

"Officials familiar with the Pentagon meetings said the chiefs of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force did not express opposition to lifting the ban," the AP's Lolita Baldor reports. "Instead, they said the military leaders asked for time to figure out health care, housing, and other questions and also to provide information and training to the troops to insure a smooth transition."

Earlier this month, Advocate obtained an internal memo from the secretary of the Navy which instructed "the chief of naval operations and commandant of the Marine Corps to forward all decisions regarding the possible separation of transgender members of the Navy to the assistant secretary of the Navy."

Ash Carter has emphasized his open-mindedness to the prospect of lifting the ban, but Monday is the first time that speculation has bore real consequence, demonstrating changing times and a restructuring of the military complex which has long discriminated against LGBT individuals.