*Mere hours after this story was published, President Biden signed an executive order that sets the policy that all Americans who are qualified to serve in the Armed Forces are allowed to. This effective overturned the ban. This story has been updated to reflect that.
President Joe Biden today overturned Trump’s discriminatory ban on transgender people serving in the military. Biden met this morning with his new Secretary of Defense, four-star Army general Lloyd Austin, and multiple outlets signed an executive order that set the policy that all Americans that are qualified to serve in the Armed Forces should be allowed to.
"Biden believes that gender identity should not be a bar to military service," the administration said in a release. "The All-Volunteer Force thrives when it is composed of diverse Americans who can meet the rigorous standards for military service, and an inclusive military strengthens our national security."
Austin, the first Black Secretary of Defense in the nation’s history, said he supported overturning the much-hated ban at his Senate confirmation hearings last week.
“If you’re fit and you’re qualified to serve and you can maintain the standards, you should be allowed to serve and you can expect that I will support that throughout,” Austin said in testimony.
Trump’s discriminatory policy had been in place since 2017 when the then-President announced the blanket ban on all trans people serving in the military, current or in the future, in a series of tweets.
“After consultation with my generals and military experts, please be advised the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military,” Trump tweeted using a since-suspended profile. “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,”
“[The decision is] based on the absurd idea that forcing transgender people to suppress who they are in order to serve is not a ban,” Jennifer Levi, the Director of GLAD’s Transgender Rights Project, after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the ban in 2019. “It ignores the reality of transgender people’s lives, with devastating consequences, and rests on a complete failure to understand who transgender people are.”
Trump had cited medical costs and disruption for his policy, despite a 2016 report from the Rand Corporation commissioned by the Obama Defense Department which disputed those claims. The report determined that the costs would represent a fraction of overall medical expenditures and found “little or no impact on unit cohesion, operational effectiveness, or readiness” in foreign militaries without a trans ban, instead finding “commanders noted that the policies had benefits for all service members by creating a more inclusive and diverse force.”
In his new executive order, Biden directed the Secretary of Defense and Secretary of Homeland Security to implement the order and provide a report within 60 days on their progress and immediately prohibited "involuntary separations, discharges, and denials of reenlistment or continuation of service on the basis of gender identity or under circumstances relating to gender identity." Further, the executive order stipulates that any member of the military discharged due to the ban or denied reenlistment have their records corrected.
"This discriminatory ban was cruel and unnecessary from its inception, and we hope that its reversal sends a clear message to transgender and nonbinary youth everywhere that they should be proud of who they are, that they are deserving of our country's respect and that they have the right to serve with honor," Amit Paley, CEO and Executive Director of The Trevor Project said in a statement about the announcement.
Many other LGBTQ+ organizations as well as plaintiffs who sued to have the ban overturned applauded the move.
"It is my highest goal to serve my country in the U.S. military and I've fought this ban because I know that I am qualified to serve," Nicolas Talbott, an aspiring service member said in a statement. Talbott is a plaintiff in the Stockman v. Trump case. "I'm thrilled and relieved that I and other transgender Americans can now be evaluated solely on our ability to meet military standards. I look forward to becoming the best service member I can be."