Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Sunday that he was open to reconsidering the ban on transgender people serving openly in the military.
“I do think it continually should be reviewed,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.” “I’m open to that.”
The “bottom line,” Hagel said, is that “every qualified American who wants to serve our country should have an opportunity if they fit the qualifications and can do it.”
Though the ban on openly gay personnel serving was lifted in 2011, transgender members must keep their gender identity a secret or risk being discharged.
The National Center for Transgender Equality applauded Hagel’s remarks. “This willingness to evaluating changes to the medical regulations is overdue but very welcome,” Executive Director Mara Keisling said.
Military medical rules barring transgender members “are based on prejudices and stereotypes about who transgender people are and need to be updated to comport with modern medical science,” Keisling said.
“If the secretary were able to meet and talk with the trans service members I’ve met, he’d understand the answer is self-evident,” she said. “These are amazing people who serve even though they must hide a basic part of who they are.”
Keisling said a survey conducted by the NCTE and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force showed that about one-fifth of all transgender adults are veterans, making transgender people approximately twice as likely as others to serve in the military.
Unlike with the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law, which was repealed in 2011, Congress has passed no statute banning transgender service members, which means the policy can be changed without legislative approval. “We look forward to working with the Pentagon to end these outdated rules that harm our military,” Keisling said.