Transgender People Move Another Step Closer to Serving in U.S. Military Again

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has started to implement President Joe Biden's January 25 executive order allowing transgender Americans to serve in the U.S. military.

Austin shared a memorandum addressed to the secretaries to the military departments on Twitter on Monday showing that the Defense Department has begun the process of rolling back former President Donald Trump's transgender ban.

"Last week, I voiced my support of @POTUS' executive order to allow all qualified Americans to serve in the U.S. military, regardless of their gender identity. This week, we're putting the first steps of our plan into action," Austin wrote.

Austin's memorandum, dated January 29, echoes Biden's executive order and pledges to act quickly to see it implemented.

"Over the next 60 days, I will work with the senior civilian and military leaders of the
Department as we expeditiously develop the appropriate policies and procedures to implement these changes," the memo said.

"Until such policy is established, effective immediately, any adverse personnel
actions initiated under DoD Instruction (DoDI) 1300.28, 'Military Service by Transgender Persons and Persons with Gender Dysphoria,' shall be held in abeyance unless personally approved by the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness in coordination personally with the General Counsel of the DoD; these approval and coordination authorities may not be delegated," the memo goes on.

DoD Instruction 1300.28, issued by the Trump administration on September 4, 2020, extended the ban on transgender people serving in the U.S. military. The instruction was a revised version of a policy on in-service transition issued by the Obama administration in 2016.

Last week, I voiced my support of @POTUS' executive order to allow all qualified Americans to serve in the U.S. military, regardless of their gender identity. This week, we're putting the first steps of our plan into action. pic.twitter.com/w1PoZdCm20

— Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III (@SecDef) February 2, 2021

"Adverse personnel actions include all administrative separations, denial
of accession or reenlistment, disability evaluation, or petition to serve in one' s preferred gender as a member of the 'exempt population' as defined in DoDI 1300.28," Austin's memo went on.

This effectively means that the Trump era policy has been suspended and the Defense Department will no longer take "adverse" action against service members based on their gender identity.

"This requirement shall remain in effect until such time as a new policy allowing for the open service of transgender individuals is re-established," Austin's memo said.

The new policy will bring a formal end to the Trump policy which barred new applicants with a history of medical transition treatment or gender dysphoria under most circumstances.

Those already serving who had transitioned or been diagnosed with gender dysphoria and were receiving hormones were permitted to serve in their preferred gender but those diagnosed with gender dysphoria after the order were forced to serve with the gender assigned to them at birth and were barred from taking hormones or receiving gender-affirming surgery.

"President Biden believes that gender identity should not be a bar to military service, and that America's strength is found in its diversity," the White House said on January 25.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin visits National Guard troops deployed at the U.S. Capitol and its perimeter on January 29, 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The Department Defense is starting to implement a policy allowing transgender people to serve. Manuel Balce Ceneta-Pool/Getty Images