In a speech Thursday at the Air Force Academy, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said there are no issues integrating transgender servicemembers in the military the Pentagon can’t overcome.
“The question of principle we’ve sort of settled — what matters is people’s ability to contribute to our military,” Carter said, according to Air Force Times. “The only barriers we should ever erect to that principle are ones in which there are practical issues that we can’t work through.”
“We do things in a careful, thoughtful manner, and I’m confident we’re going to get to the right place,” Carter added
Carter didn’t expand on what issues the Department of Defense needs to work through to remove the ban on transgender servicemembers serving openly. However, there are some obvious potential issues surrounding bathroom use and other facilities, as well as what physical standards will apply to transitioning troops. It’s a live question of whether men transitioning to women will be allowed to pass under female physical standards.
The Pentagon is intent on extending the same logic across the board for removing restrictions on who can serve. According to military officials, so long as people can meet the standards, they deserve a place in the armed forces, but many protest pressure to prioritize diversity in the military will lead to lowered standards.
These objections usually come from former enlisted troops and officers. Members of Congress have largely dodged the issue of women in combat as too controversial to discuss in any detail or argue against, with the exception of legislators like GOP Rep. [crscore]Duncan Hunter[/crscore]. Moreover, Republicans have kept almost totally silent on the issue of transgenders in the military, leaving the Obama administration free and clear to execute its designs on the services.
In July, 2015, Carter announced his intention to allow transgenders to serve openly. Since then, he’s set up a working group to determine best practices for integration.
Department of Defense Instruction 6130.03 states servicemembers are medically unfit if they are diagnosed with “psychosexual conditions, including but not limited to transsexualism, exhibitionism, transvestism, voyeurism, and other paraphilias.” For Carter, this instruction is out of date.
Part of the reason this instruction has existed is that transsexualism has a high comorbidity rate, meaning the presence of gender dysphoria is associated with all sorts of other debilitating conditions. As just one example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes transgender women have an astonishingly high HIV rate of 28 percent. Approximately two-thirds of transgenders have to deal with multiple disorders, including depression, which is a leading cause of suicide. A survey of 6,000 transgenders revealed an attempted suicide rate of 41 percent.
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