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Military Leaders Push Back Against Easing of Transgendered Ban

DR

Mark Stricherz - published on 03/25/15 - updated on 06/08/17

Defense Secretary said he was "very open minded" about accommodating transgendered

Last month, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said he was “very open-minded” about allowing transgendered individuals to serve openly in the U.S. military. Now the Pentagon chief has received pushback from military advisers, according to the Associated Press.

The news agency reported that military officials have questions about the practicality of accommodating the transgendered into the four branches of the armed forces:

Military officials are reluctant to publicly discuss their opposition, but much of it centers on questions about where transgender troops would be housed, what berthing they would have on ships, which bathrooms they would use, and whether their presence would affect the ability of small units to work well together.

There also are questions about whether the military would conduct or pay for the medical treatment and costs associated with any gender transition, as well as which physical training standards they would be required to meet.

The military has dealt with many similar questions as it integrated the ranks by race, gender and sexual orientation. And in many cases they raised comparable worries about what effect the change would have on the force, including whether it would hinder small units that often have to work together in remote, confined locations for long periods of time.

Transgender people — those who believe their gender identity is different than the one they were born with and sometimes take hormone treatments or have surgery to become their chosen gender — are banned from military service. But studies and other surveys estimate 15,000 transgender people serve in the active duty military and the reserves, often in secret but in many cases with the knowledge of their unit commander or peers.

Carter, who became Pentagon chief just five weeks ago, told troops in Afghanistan last month that the key question should be "are they going to be excellent service members? And I don’t think anything but their suitability for service should preclude them."

Military leaders faced the challenges of accommodating the transgendered last year after Army Private Bradley Manning, the leaker in the WikiLeaks case, asked to change into a woman. The Pentagon is expected to release a report on its policy, according to AP:

The transgender issue came to the fore as the military struggled with how to deal with convicted national security leaker Chelsea Manning’s request for hormone therapy and other treatment for her gender dysphoria while she’s in prison. Manning, arrested as Bradley Manning, is the first transgender military prisoner to request such treatment, and the Army recently approved the hormone therapy, under pressure from a lawsuit.

Manning, like other service members discovered to be transgender, would have been discharged, but she first has to finish serving her 35-year sentence at the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

While there are no separate, formal Defense Department studies on the transgender question, there is an ongoing review that looks at the broader issue of Defense Department standards for enlistment, which includes a 40-page list of medical conditions that preclude service.

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