Chuck Hagel Says Transgender Ban Should Be Reviewed

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel spoke Sunday on the military’s transgender ban — and in an era where “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is not too far in the distant past, the comments have been considered as major progress for the LGBT community.

Chuck Hagel appeared on ABC’s This Week explaining that he feels the transgender policies of the U.S. Military “should be reviewed.” While the controversial “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy — which allowed gay soldiers to serve, but not openly — was repealed in 2010, transgendered individuals remained restricted from openly serving.

Now Hagel, speaking to ABC’s Martha Raddatz, says he’s “open” to reviewing the current transgender rules and opined that all who wish to serve the United States in such a fashion should be able, regardless of sexual or gender orientation:

“I do think it continually should be reviewed… 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.”

Hagel spoke a bit about potential complications that could arise from revision of transgender policies, positing one such difficulty could stem from rendering medical care to troops in “austere locations” if necessary.

Allyson Robinson is a transgender advocate and policy director SPART*A, a group that represents LGBT military interests. Robinson lauded Chuck Hagel’s openness to reviewing the transgender ban, arguing that persisting with current policies adversely affects troops.

She said the current policy was dated, adding:

“We appreciate that Secretary Hagel recognizes that these medical regulations are over thirty years old, are inconsistent with current medical practice, and negatively impact military readiness… They harm our service members and weaken our military.”

Hagel’s “evolution” on transgender policies echoes a report released earlier this year, on which former Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders collaborated. The report concurred that the current guidelines were not medically based, and added that repealing it would allow for many more Americans to serve:

“We determined not only that there is no compelling medical reason for the ban, but also that the ban itself is an expensive, damaging and unfair barrier to health care access for the approximately 15,450 transgender personnel who serve currently in the active, Guard and reserve components.”

In addition to the transgender ban, Chuck Hagel also addressed America’s standing in current conflicts — adding that other nations should not forget that the US won’t hesitate to use force when necessary.