US military urged to allow transgender troops to serve openly

Retired military personnel are calling on the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines to change their lists of disqualifying conditions to allow transgender people to serve openly.

Though the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was repealed, allowing openly gay people to serve in the military, there is still a ban on transgender service members. 

In May, Secretary of Defense Chuck HagelCharles (Chuck) Timothy HagelWhite House aide moves to lobbying firm Overnight Defense: US, Russia tensions grow over nuclear arms | Highlights from Esper's Asia trip | Trump strikes neutral tone on Hong Kong protests | General orders ethics review of special forces Five takeaways from Pentagon chief's first major trip MORE said that the ban should be “continually reviewed.”

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A report released by the Palm Center on Tuesday, however, said the Department of Defense deleted its list of medically disqualifying and administratively disqualifying conditions in August. Now only conditions that impair fitness for duty or deployment qualify. 

In a joint statement issued Wednesday, retired Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy, Maj. Gen. Vance Coleman, Rear Adm. Jamie Barnett and seven LGBT leaders urged the military to update their noncompliant rules. 

“Ultimate authority for ordering the elimination of discriminatory military policy rests with the President of the United States, and if the Services decline to comply with DOD rules, or if DOD declines to eliminate discriminatory policy, the Commander-in-Chief should take executive action to effect the change,” the statement read.

Harper Jean Tobin, director of policy at the National Center for Transgender Equality, said requiring troops to serve in silence is not sustainable or American. 

“Commanding officers are more and more aware that some of their troops are transgender, and they want to know how to keep them serving,” she said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. 

“They want some guidance from the top so they can do their jobs.”