Allowing Openly Transgender People to Serve in the Armed Forces Is a Win-Win

That’s according to a study commissioned by the Department of Defense, as well as examples from other countries with open policies already in existence.
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Secretary of Defense Ash Carter speaks during a press conference on June 30th, 2016, at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia.

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter speaks during a press conference on June 30th, 2016, at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia.

Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter announced today that transgender people may serve openly in the military. The decision comes about a year after Carter called the Pentagon’s old ban on transgender service members “outdated.”

It’s also been a few months since the completion of a study, commissioned by Carter and conducted by the RAND Corporation, on the expected effects of lifting the ban. Here are some highlights from that study:

  • Covering transition-related health care for active, transgender personnel will cost between $2.4 million and $8.4 million, or between 0.04 percent and 0.13 percent of the military’s active-service health-care budget.
  • There are probably around 2,450 active, transgender personnel serving right now. Every year, an estimated 29 to 129 people are expected to seek gender-transition treatment in a way that would affect their ability to deploy.
  • Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Australia, among other nations, already allow openly transgender people to serve. “The limited research on the effects of foreign military policies indicates little or no impact on unit cohesion, operational effectiveness, or readiness,” the RAND researchers write. In addition, similar steps the United States military has taken in the past, such as opening up the forces to women and openly lesbian and gay volunteers, didn’t affect unit cohesion, operational effectiveness, or readiness.

Now the question will be: How to best integrate openly transgender people into the military? Pacific Standard reported on recommendations from the Palm Center, a Los Angeles-based think tank, last year. Among the Palm Center’s ideas: policies for deciding whether a medically transitioning member needs medical leave; policies for when people should begin to wear the uniforms and using the facilities of their target gender; and general diversity training for service members and leaders.

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