US: New Defence Secretary backs calls to end ban on trans people in the military

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

The new US Defence Secretary has voiced support for calls to end the ban on transgender people serving in the military.

Lesbian, gay and bisexual soldiers have been able to serve openly since Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was repealed in 2011 – but trans people remain actively banned by health regulations put in place in the 1970s.

A year ago, former US Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders co-authored a report recommended an end to the blanket ban on trans people serving in the military, which she said was made on outdated medical grounds.

Ashton Carter, who took over as Defence Secretary this month following the resignation of Chuck Hagel, was asked about ending the ban in one of his first press conferences.

He said: “I come at this kind of question from a fundamental starting point, which is that we want to make our conditions and experience of service as attractive as possible to our best people in our country,

“I’m very open-minded about what their personal lives and proclivities are, provided they can do what we need them to do for us.

“That’s the important criteria: Are they going to be excellent service members? And I don’t think anything but their suitability for service should preclude them.”

Former Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said previously: “The issue of transgender is a bit more complicated because it has a medical component to it. These issues require medical attention. Austere locations where we put our men and women in many cases don’t always provide that kind of opportunity

“I do think it continually should be reviewed. I’m open to that, by the way.

“I’m open to those assessments because, again, I go back to the bottom line. 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.”