In a historic move, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced Thursday that transgender men and women will now be allowed to openly serve in the U.S. military. All military services will start rolling out new policies for transgender members within a year, according to a press release from the Department of Defense.
"This is the right thing to do for our people and for the force," Carter said during a press conference. "We're talking about talented Americans who are serving with distinction or who want the opportunity to serve. We can't allow barriers unrelated to a person's qualifications (to) prevent us from recruiting and retaining those who can best accomplish the mission."
As part of the new policy, the Department of Defense will start distributing by October a training handbook for commanders explaining the proper protocol for changing a service member's recorded gender in the military's enrollment system. The Department of Defense will also require that all branches of the military openly provide any necessary medical care or treatment to transgender members of the armed forces.
"Being transgender is something that I usually put at the end of a long list," Captain Jennifer Peace, who met with Secretary Carter ahead of the announcement, toldNBC News. "Somewhere after a mom, wife, soldier, intelligence officer… I'm also transgender. Speaking with [Secretary Carter] however, I was proud that I could tell him I was transgender. Not that it says anything about who I am, but that it highlights the accomplishments of my career that I have made despite that fact. I wanted him to see what a trans soldier is capable of contributing to the military."
The response to the Pentagon's announcement has been overwhelmingly positive, with many expressing their support of the decision on Twitter:
Others celebrated the historic movie while cautioning that more should be done to ensure that transgender members of the military are protected from potential acts of bigotry:
The reversal of the military's transgender ban is just the latest move within the Obama administration aimed at ensuring equality for all service members. The U.S. military crossed another historic threshold in August 2015 following the graduation of two women from the notoriously rigorous Ranger School. Described as a course that teaches potential graduates how to "overcome fatigue, hunger, and stress," the Ranger School milestone was praised by former Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh as a hopeful sign of future milestones to come. "This course has proven that every soldier, regardless of gender, can achieve his or her full potential," Secretary McHugh said in a press release.