US: Loophole could allow trans people to serve in the military

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

The US military may have to allow transgender people to serve openly, after changes to the discharge procedure created a legal loophole.

The repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2011 allowed LGB soldiers to serve openly for the first time – but trans people remained banned from serving, because they were classed as having a “congenital or developmental defect”.

Campaigners have long argued for the military to change the rules, which do not reflect modern medical guidelines by treating trans people as mentally ill.

However, a newly-implemented policy could allow trans people to serve openly, even though the clauses banning them remain in place.

According to the Palm Centre, Defense Department Instruction 1332.18 of the Disability Evaluation System effectively overrides the clauses banning trans people, as it states individuals can only be discharged if their “defects” interfere with their duties

This is a significant diversion from the rules as they stand – and the conflicting regulations are likely to require changes at some point in the future.

The Transgender Military Service Commission estimates that 15,500 trans people serve across all branches of the US military. Around 18 countries, including the UK, allow trans people to serve in the armed forces.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel – who had said in the past he was “open” to the idea of reviewing the ban – announced last week that he would step down.