During a Thursday press conference at the Pentagon, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter announced new policies relating to transgender persons to be implemented across the armed forces.

“Starting today, otherwise qualified servicemembers can no longer be involuntarily separated, discharged or denied reenlistment for continuation of service just for being transgender,” said Carter while reading prepared remarks.

New guidelines for dealing with transgender persons would also be immediately issued to current servicemembers, followed by new training for the entire military. A new “commander’s guidebook” will also be issued to military leaders.

Transgender servicepersons will also be permitted to “officially change their gender” in the military’s information management systems following a “stable period” of 18 months following a "transition" of their gender. Enlistees undergoing a "transition" of gender will require a similar 18-month period of stability before being eligible to join the military.

Military doctors doctors will be given new instructions pertaining to “transition-related care,” and military medical facilities will begin offering treatment in line with the new instructions.

Asked by a reporter if “gender-reassignment surgery” would be made available to current transgender servicemembers, Carter stated that “medically-necessary care” as determined by physicians would be on offer.

Despite announcing a new set of policies for military doctors and medical facilities in treating transgender servicepersons, Carter said, "the medical standards don't change" when asked about the military's provision of "gender-reassignment surgery."

“We will take care of [transgender servicemembers], and pay for necessary medical treatment,” said Carter, adding that the provision of healthcare to assist in the “transition” of gender is becoming socially and politically “normalized.”

Transgender status will be added to the Department of Defense's Military Equal Opportunity Program, confirmed Carter.

Carter noted that one third of Fortune 500 companies - including companies such as Boeing, CVS, and Ford - have adopted “transgender-inclusive coverage,” offering healthcare services to transgender persons specifically related to their condition as part of their group benefits packages.

Two-thirds of Fortune 500 companies, added Carter, had adopted “non-discrimination” policies towards transgender persons, listing “gender identity” as a prohibited basis for discrimination.

Analysis from RAND corporation, said Carter, concluded that these policy changes would yield “minimal readiness impacts” across the military.

RAND corporation estimated the number of transgender servicepersons to be between 2,500 and 7,000 from a total of approximately 1.3 million in active duty. The number of transgender servicepersons in reserve duty is estimated to be between 1,500 and 4,000 from a total of approximately 825,000.


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