Transgender People Can Now Serve Openly in the Military, and It's About Time

How significant is the Pentagon's decision to lift the ban on transgender service members? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by Ariel Williams, transgender writer and artist, on Quora:

The Pentagon's decision to lift the ban on transgender service members is very significant. The U.S. Federal Government under President Obama has, in eight short years, erased decades of institutionalized discrimination against LGBTQ Americans. He has done more for LGBTQ rights than any other President. There simply is no second place.

In removing these barriers to service, America will be joining other countries such as Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, which have already allowed transgender persons to serve in their militaries. The fact that so many countries do have effective fighting forces and that the inclusion of transgender individuals has not negatively impacted their armed services shows that there really is no good excuse to deny military service.

Transgender people are no less able protect, serve, fight, and if need be die for their country than anyone else. America has had many very respected soldiers that later transitioned after leaving the service or were forced to leave due to their transition. Some of these included Navy Seals like Kristin Beck, American Revolutionary war soldiers such as Albert Cashier, Marines such as Janae Kroc, Army Lieutenant Colonel and billionaire Jennifer Pritzker, Army Colonel Sheri Swokowski, and naval officers such as Mary Elizabeth Clark and Autumn Sandeen among many others. It is estimated that as many as 15,000 current military soldiers may be serving with untreated gender dysphoria.

Medical studies and surveys have consistently shown that medical treatment for gender dysphoria leads to better job performance, greater confidence and well-being, and lower incidences of depression and suicide compared those who go untreated. United States soldiers should not feel they need to hide this condition so that they can serve their country. This policy follows a line of good common sense backed by proven science. One can only imagine how much more some of the highly decorated individuals named above might have been able to achieve had they been allowed to continue to serve openly transgender.

Like any other job, the only factor that should apply to being accepted or denied employment is the employee's individual performance and ability to meet the qualifications of the position. There is no factor that is unique to transgender people as a whole that makes them any less able to meet the demands of being a soldier or complete their mission than any other American.

Although transgender people have medical needs, these needs are not in any way significantly limiting compared to the many other conditions that soldiers are allowed to serve with. At most, a transgender person requires a shot twice a month or a couple of very small pills daily.

This is a big win for equality, and for the government, in recognizing that transgender people are just as capable of performing any job as well as anyone else.

With this change, one of the few barriers still left is that medical insurance companies are still allowed to exclude transgender healthcare from their plans. This may soon change. The American Medical Association, American Psychological Association, and American Psychiatric Association all consider this to be a medically necessary surgery. The costs of transgender surgeries (taken as a whole) are no more expensive than, for example, a gall bladder removal, which has a much smaller rate of incidence and a lower rate of complications. For the record, gall bladder removal (cholecystectomy) surgeries are not excluded from coverage.

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