Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said he “fully” supported President Joe Biden’s reversal of former President Donald Trump’s military transgender policy, Biden issued the executive order Monday.
“I fully support the President’s direction that all transgender individuals who wish to serve in the United States military and can meet the appropriate standards shall be able to do so openly and free from discrimination,” Austin said in a statement.
The Trump administration required transgender military recruits to serve in their biological sex. Biden’s executive order reverses that policy and allows transgender recruits to serve in their “self-identified” gender.
Austin said the department would “immediately take appropriate policy action” to ensure that individuals who identify as transgender are eligible to enter and serve in their self-identified gender. He added:
These changes will ensure no one will be separated or discharged, or denied reenlistment, solely on the basis of gender identity. Prospective recruits may serve in their self-identified gender when they have met the appropriate standards for accession into the military services. This revised policy will also ensure all medically-necessary transition related care authorized by law is available to all Service members and will re-examine all cases of transgender Service members that may be in some form of adverse administrative proceedings.
Austin said over the next 60 days, he looked forward to working with senior leaders in the Pentagon as “we expeditiously develop the appropriate policies and procedures to implement these changes.”
The United States Armed Forces are in the business of defending our fellow citizens from our enemies, foreign and domestic. I believe we accomplish that mission more effectively when we represent all our fellow citizens. I also believe we should avail ourselves of the best possible talent in our population, regardless of gender identity. We would be rendering ourselves less fit to the task if we excluded from our ranks people who meet our standards and who have the skills and the devotion to serve in uniform.
This is the right thing to do. It is also the smart thing to do.
The Senate confirmed Austin on Friday as the first black defense secretary in the department’s history.
At least one military service chief so far has voiced his support of Biden’s policy reversal. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said in a statement:
Today’s transgender policy change eliminates an unnecessary barrier to service and ensures we are able to carry out our mission with the best-qualified and most-capable Sailors regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation, gender, race, or creed. Simply put, all Sailors and applicants for accession to the Navy must be treated with dignity and respect. This policy change is the right thing to do and is another step in ensuring that we continue to recruit and retain the best and most qualified people.
Gilday added: “I’m absolutely confident in the ability of our Sailors – active and reserve, uniform and civilian – to implement this policy in a manner that both protects the readiness of the force and also upholds values cherished by our service.”