IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.
Image: Pentagon
An aerial view of the Pentagon building in Washington on Dec. 26, 2011.Dan De LUCE / AFP - Getty Images file

Biden admin undoes Trump's policy against transgender troops

Trump's discriminatory ban on transgender military service was obviously indefensible, and now, it's over.


Yesterday morning, President Joe Biden did something none of his predecessors had ever done: he issued a presidential proclamation recognizing Transgender Day of Visibility.

And while the symbolic gesture was a step forward for the LGBTQ community, the Democratic administration soon after took an even more substantive step. NBC News reported yesterday afternoon:

The Pentagon on Wednesday scrapped restrictions on transgender troops imposed by the Trump administration, and unveiled new rules designed to end discrimination and provide medical care for those service members. The Defense Department's new policy will permit troops to serve openly under their self-identified gender and will offer access to medical treatments for gender transition, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters.

In Biden's first week as president, he halted Trump's discriminatory policy, and prohibited "involuntary separations, discharges, and denials of reenlistment or continuation of service on the basis of gender identity or under circumstances relating to gender identity." At the same time, the new president initiated a two-month review process, giving DOD officials time to "correct" the effective ban on transgender troops.

Yesterday marked the end of that review process. Trump's policy is no more.

For those who may want a refresher as to how we arrived at this point, let's take a brief stroll down memory lane.

The initial breakthrough came in June 2016, when then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced that the U.S. military was lifting a ban on transgender service members. About a year later, Donald Trump reversed course, announcing -- via Twitter, of course -- that transgender Americans would no longer be allowed to serve.

Everything about the change was a mess. Trump hadn't given anyone at the Pentagon a heads-up about his discriminatory policy -- officials throughout the executive branch were blindsided -- and no one at the White House could explain why this was happening.

Trump eventually defended the move by saying, "I think I'm doing a lot of people a favor by coming out and just saying it." It was never clear what that was supposed to mean.

Two years later, the Republican tried again to defend his ban, insisting that transgender servicemembers "have to" take "massive amounts of drugs," and in the military, you're not allowed to take any drugs."

This didn't make any sense at all. For one thing, as a Washington Post report explained, "[N]ot all transgender people undergo gender reassignment surgery or take prescription hormones, so even if such prescribed drugs were prohibited, it wouldn't necessarily mean transgender troops would have to be banned from serving. Trump's comments seem to suggest that these drugs would be required for all transgender troops; they're not."

What's more, as a Pentagon spokesperson was quick to point out, "The Military Health System covers all approved medically necessary treatments and prescription medications. If a service member has a hormone deficiency for any reason (such as hypogonadism, hypothyroidism, menopause, etc.), he or she would be prescribed hormones."

In other words, Trump banned eligible Americans from serving in the military, and he couldn't explain why.

His policy was obviously indefensible, and now, it's over. As far as Pentagon policy is concerned, the clock has been turned back to where things stood before Trump arrived in the White House.