U.S. military lifts ban on transgende­r service members

Carter: ‘This is the right thing to do’

- Tom Vanden Brook @tvandenbro­ok USA TODAY

Defense Secretary WASHINGTON Ash Carter said Thursday that the military will no longer discrimina­te against transgende­r troops, knocking down one of the last barriers to service based on gender identity or sexual orientatio­n.

The move, nearly a year in the making, came despite lastminute concerns raised by top brass about how to deal with the medical, housing and uniform issues for troops who are transition­ing.

“This is the right thing to do for our people and for the force,” Carter said. “We’re talking about talented Americans who are serv- ing 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 Pentagon, Carter said, needs “access to 100%” of our population to develop the military force the nation needs.

Five years ago, the military repealed its Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, which required gay and lesbian troops to hide their sexual orientatio­n or face discharge.

Last July, Carter announced the formation of a study group to examine the issues raised by lifting the ban. He also ordered that decisions on dischargin­g troops with gender dysphoria be raised to senior Pentagon officials.

There are between 1,320 and 6,630 transgende­r troops in the active-duty force of 1.3 million, according to Agnes Schaefer, the lead author of a RAND Corp. study commission­ed by the Pentagon on the issue. Of those troops, RAND estimates that between 30 and 140 would seek hormone treatment, and 25 to 130 would seek surgery. The estimated annual price tag: $2.4 million to $8.4 million, per year.

Treatment costs per service member are estimated to cost as much as $50,000, according to a senior Defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity because officials were not authorized to speak publicly.

Carter said there are already transgende­r people serving in the military, and the Pentagon owes it to them to care for them and give commanders guidance.

 ?? AFP/GETTY IMAGES ?? Ash Carter

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