President Biden on Monday repealed former President Trump's ban on transgender individuals serving in the US military - signing an executive order that "sets the policy that all Americans who are qualified to serve in the Armed Forces of the United States should be able to serve," according to a fact sheet circulated by new Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin following a meeting with Biden.
"President Biden believes that gender identity should not be a bar to military service, and that America’s strength is found in its diversity," said the fact sheet. "Allowing all qualified Americans to serve their country in uniform is better for the military and better for the country because an inclusive force is a more effective force."
Today, I repealed the discriminatory ban on transgender people serving in the military. It’s simple: America is safer when everyone qualified to serve can do so openly and with pride.— President Biden (@POTUS) January 25, 2021
Transgender troops and their taxpayer-funded medical and psychological treatment became a topic of controversy after President Trump tweeted in July 2017 that he wanted to ban them from the military. In January, 2019, the US Supreme Court ruled that a modified ban could take effect while lower court challenges to Trump's ban continued.
Also known as gender dysphoria, transgenderism is recognized by the medical and mental health community. In a February 2019 article, USA Today noted that "the cost of treating troops with the diagnosis of gender dysphoria has totaled $7,943,906.75. That included 22,992 psychotherapy visits, 9,321 prescriptions for hormones and 161 surgical procedures," adding "Surgeries performed included 103 breast reductions or mastectomies, 37 hysterectomies, 17 "male reproductive" procedures and four breast augmentations. Psychotherapy sessions cost nearly $5.8 million and surgery cost more than $2 million, according to the data."
Biden's executive order revokes Trump's 2017 and 2018 orders banning transgender military service, and orders the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security to ensure that all policies are in-line with his executive action.
"Simply put, transgender servicemembers will no longer be subject to the possibility of discharge or separation on the basis of gender identity; transgender servicemembers can serve in their gender when transition is complete and the gender marker in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) is changed and transgender servicemembers should know that they are accepted throughout the U.S. military," reads the fact sheet.
Biden pledged during the presidential campaign he would lift Trump’s ban, referring to it as a “day one” priority. But it was not among the batch of executive orders Biden signed hours after his inauguration last Wednesday amid a delay in Austin’s confirmation. With Austin's confirmed Friday, Biden was expected to act as soon as Monday.
The Obama administration, in which Biden was vice president, lifted the previous ban on transgender military service in 2016.
A RAND Corporation study commissioned by the Pentagon during the Obama administration found allowing open service would have “a minimal impact on readiness.” Additionally in 2018, the chiefs of the Army, Navy, Marines Corps and Air Force said in congressional testimony they had seen no problems with discipline, morale or unit cohesion resulting from transgender troops serving openly in the military. -The Hill
In 2019, the Pentagon established and implemented a policy to fulfill Trump's order barring most transgender people from serving in the military unless they can perform their duties as their biological sex. There were loopholes, however, such as a waiver one could seek to serve openly. According to the report, just one such waiver was granted. The policy also allowed those who had come out under the Obama administration to continue serving openly.
An estimated 14,700 service members on active duty or in the reserves identify as transgender, according to The Hill, while Pentagon data shows that around 1,500 troops since 2016 have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria.