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Pentagon will start process to end ban on transgender troops next week

The Defense Department is laying the foundation on how to incorporate transgender troops into the ranks. Considerations include housing, uniforms, and medical care.

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    Defense Secretary Ash Carter testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington on July 7, 2015
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Transgender troops will soon have one less battle to fight – but this struggle isn’t on the front lines.

The Pentagon plans to meet Monday to devise a strategy on how to allow transgender troops in the military to serve openly, a Defense Department official said, according to USA Today.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter sent a memo Tuesday to military leaders and civilians, which outlined his plan to “protect transgender troops from being discharged and direct officials to develop a plan within six months to incorporate those troops into the ranks, USA Today reported.

Carter first announced this announced this plan on July 13 and made his intentions clear in a statement.

“The Defense Department's current regulations regarding transgender service members are outdated and are causing uncertainty that distracts commanders from our core missions,” Carter wrote. “At a time when our troops have learned from experience that the most important qualification for service members should be whether they're able and willing to do their job, our officers and enlisted personnel are faced with certain rules that tell them the opposite.”

The memo released Tuesday explains how transgender troops will be housed, which uniforms they will wear and what medical treatments they’ll be entitled to, a defense department official told USA Today.

Although the plan will take time to implement, the Pentagon has made it much harder to discharge troops since the July 13 announcement, according to The New Civil Rights Movement, a news organization, which focuses on “interests of the progressive and LGBT communities.”

The Christian Science Monitor’s Harry Bruinius reported on these developments and noted there are an estimated 15,000 transgender soldiers serving in the US military.

Bruinius spoke to Kristin Beck, who served as a Navy SEAL for 20 years and used to go by the name, Christopher, before her transition.

“My primary concern was service to my country, to defend the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, to defend my nation,” Beck said. “At the time, the more important objective was service to the country, and so I was able to put aside my own personal gender struggle.”

Academics viewed the move as a reflection of increasing tolerance in the army but said it would take more work to change mindsets.

“It seems to me that this decision naturally flows from the relatively easy implementation of the removal of the gay ban, and the increasing integration of women into positions that bring them into combat,” Donald Haider-Markel, professor and chair of the political science department at the University of Kansas, and an expert on transgender policy, told The Monitor. “Certainly there are challenges, and discrimination is likely to still occur, but this isn't the mountain some make it out to be. I suspect this will be fully implemented by this time next year.” 

The repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” – the policy that banned gay and lesbians from serving openly – started with similar initiatives, and ended in success. Transgender soldiers too, may soon be allowed to break their silence.

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