Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that now that gays and lesbians can serve openly in the military, the Defense Department needs to look at how it can accommodate transgender individuals.
Hagel told ABC’s This Week that “the issue of transgender is a bit more complicated, because it has a — a medical component to it.”
The American Psychological Association defines transgender as “an umbrella term for persons whose gender identity, gender expression or behavior does not conform to that typically associated with the sex to which they were assigned at birth.” Pfc. Bradley Manning, the day after being sentenced in the Wikileaks scandal, changed his name to Chelsea and has requested hormone therapy in prison. Army records continue to identify him as a male even though he has requested to only be called female.
“These issues require medical attention,” Hagel said of the general issue of transgenders, who are barred from military service under current policy. “Austere locations where we — we put our men and women in — in many cases, don’t always provide that kind of opportunity. I do think it — 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,” he added. “This is an area that we — we’ve — we’ve not defined enough.”
The National Center for Transgender Equality said in a statement after Hagel’s remarks that it looks “forward to working with the Pentagon to end these outdated rules that harm our military.”
“This willingness to evaluating changes to the medical regulations is overdue but very welcome,” said NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling. “If the Secretary were able to meet and talk with the trans service members I’ve met, he’d understand the answer is self-evident. These are amazing people who serve even though they must hide a basic part of who they are.”
The group cited its National Transgender Discrimination Survey that showed “about one-fifth of all transgender adults are veterans, making transgender people approximately twice as likely as others to serve in the military.”