The new policy, approved by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, went into effect on Wednesday, which is International Transgender Day of Visibility.
“There’s no place for violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression or sex characteristics,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters.
Mr. Trump first announced the military transgender ban on Twitter in July 2017, taking his own senior military leadership by surprise. “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail,” he tweeted at the time.
The policy revision, which President Biden announced soon after taking office, was not unexpected. It has drawn support from House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith.
“This change in policy affirms the inherent worth of all service members — regardless of their gender identity, race, religion, national origin, color or sexual orientation — and will allow thousands of transgender service members to continue serving the country they love as their authentic selves,” the Washington state Democrat said in a statement.
Pentagon officials said potential military recruits who are transgender will be eligible to serve according to their gender identity, assuming they meet the appropriate standards for joining the armed forces.
The new measure is actually a restoration of the Obama-era transgender policy, officials said, first announced in 2016 in the last year of Mr. Obama’s presidency.
The restored regulations “prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or an individual’s identification as transgender,” Mr. Kirby said. “They provide a means by which to assess into the military in one’s self-identified gender, provided all appropriate standards are met.”
The Defense Department funded a study released earlier this year that found that two-thirds of active-duty personnel across the military services said they support the idea of serving alongside transgender personnel.
Mr. Biden signed an executive order shortly after he assumed office scrapping the Trump policy and prohibiting any service member from being forced out of the military on the basis of gender identity. That order will remain in effect for 30 days, giving military leaders time to prepare for the new policy to take over.
Under the policy, service members will once again be eligible for government-funded sex reassignment surgery — as had been the case during the Obama administration.
Elaine Donnelly, president of the conservative Center for Military Readiness, accused the Biden administration of weakening the cohesion of the armed forces to appease “woke activists.”
“President Biden‘s military transgender policies are not about ‘dignity and respect’ as advertised,” Ms. Donnelly said in a statement Wednesday. “Military women will have to accept indignity and disrespect for their privacy in women-only private facilities.”
But Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center, a California-based research institute, said he looked forward to “a speedy implementation of inclusive policy.”
“The ban will now be replaced with a single standard for everyone that, as in the successful previous policy, will apply equally to all service members,” he said.
The restoration of Obama-era transgender policy also means the Pentagon also will take a second look at any service members who might have been discharged from the military as a result of their gender identity, officials said.
“We should avail ourselves of the best possible talent in our population, regardless of gender identity,” Mr. Austin said a Jan. 25 statement. “We would be rendering ourselves less fit to the task if we excluded from our ranks people who meet our standards and who have the skills and the devotion to serve in uniform.”
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