WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon is set to lift its ban on transgender individuals serving openly in the military in May, ending what Defense Secretary Ash Carter has called an "outdated" regulation.
The memo outlining the plan, obtained by USA Today, was recently circulated amongst top military and medical personnel. It lays out a draft plan for ending the ban by May 27, 2016, and highlights potential issues, "including a pilot program that would provide leaves of absences for transgender troops being treated with hormones or having surgery."
Carter first announced his decision to end the ban in July, acknowledging that there are already transgender service members in the military who deserve to serve without fear.
"We have transgender soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines -- real, patriotic Americans -- who I know are being hurt by an outdated, confusing, inconsistent approach that's contrary to our value of service and individual merit," he said. "The Defense Department's current regulations regarding transgender service members are outdated and are causing uncertainty that distracts commanders from our core missions."
The Williams Institute, which studies lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues, has estimated that there are more than 15,000 transgender individuals serving on active duty or in the Guard and Reserves.
Army and Air Force leaders know for sure of approximately 20 transgender service members in each branch, a Defense Department official told USA Today.
The Pentagon is also looking at revisiting the discharge status of people who have been kicked out of the military due to their gender identity.
The Pentagon did not return a request for comment.
In 2010, the military lifted its ban on allowing gay men and women to serve openly.