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Secretary of Defense says he is ‘open’ to transgender people serving in military

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel says he is ‘open’ to review the military’s policy on transgender service – something that the armed services do not currently allow.

Secretary of Defense says he is ‘open’ to transgender people serving in military-slide0
Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty Images
U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel says he is ‘open’ to review the military’s policy on transgender service – something that the armed services do not currently allow.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel says he is ‘open’ to review the military’s policy on transgender service – something that the armed services do not currently allow. Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty Images

Transgender troops have been calling on the military to remove its ban, since the government repealed, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Policy, that disallowed gay and lesbian individuals from serving the military.

Subsequently, Hagel spoke to a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride (LGBT) event at the Pentagon last summer, those in favor, of lifting the ban hoped it was a sign of progress on the issue. However, nothing changed in the months after.

The Department of Defense’s current policy is to allow transgender people to serve in civilian positions, however, not in the armed services. The military cites medical reasons as the cause for disbarment.

Report launched in March, commissioned by former U.S. Surgeon General (Jocelyn Elders), to Bill Clinton on behalf of San Francisco State University’s Palm Center posits that there is no medical reason for the ban.

Elders says the ban “expensive, damaging and unfair barrier to health care access for the approximately 15,450 transgender personnel that serve currently in the active, guard and reserve components.”

If the military allowed individuals to undergo sex changes, to stay in service, it would affect approximately 230 members of the service and “would place almost no burden on the military.” The cost for each operation would cost the government $30,000.

Former Navy SEAL Team 6, Chris Beck, who’s now Kristin Beck, proposes a pilot program that gives each service member to undergo sex-change a year to complete the emotional and physical transition in return for two years of additional service.

There was no visible effect on military policy when the report published.

Defense Department spokesman Navy Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen said: “At this time, there are no plans to change the department’s policy and regulations which do not allow transgender individuals to serve in the U.S. military.”

It appears that Hagel’s remarks to ABC News on Sunday may signal that the military has shifted positions on the issue.

Hagel told ABC’s Martha Raddatz: “Every qualified American who wants to serve our country should have an opportunity, if they fit the qualifications and can do it.”

“This is an area that we’ve not defined enough.”

If the U.S. changed its policy, it would signal a precedent to other countries that allow transgender individuals to serve, including Great Britain, Canada, Israel, Spain and Sweden.