One of the last discriminatory, gender or sexuality-based barriers to military service is on the verge of being banished to the history books.
According to several senior U.S. military officials, the Pentagon is finalizing plans to allow transgender troops to serve openly in the military. The Associated Press reports an official announcement is expected this week.
However, transgender individuals won’t be allowed to join the military just yet. Before any policy change becomes official, there will reportedly be a six-month buffer period during which the service branches will make decisions to ensure a smooth transition. Defense Secretary Ash Carter has tasked a group of military and civilian leaders to figure out issues like whether the military will cover medical costs associated with gender transition, what uniforms transgender individuals will wear, where they’ll be housed, and which bathrooms they’ll use.
In a statement to The Associated Press, Carter said, “we must ensure that everyone who's able and willing to serve has the full and equal opportunity to do so. And we must treat all of our people with the dignity and respect they deserve. Going forward the Department of Defense must and will continue to improve how we do both.”
The new plan would come four years after the ban on gay, lesbian, and bisexual people serving in the military was lifted in 2011, with the repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”
The military has slowly been shifting its stance on transgender issues in the past few years, most notably with its treatment of Chelsea Manning, the convicted Wikileaks source who’s currently receiving hormone therapy during her stay in a military prison, where she’s serving a 35-year sentence.