Advocates for the reversal of the ban were elated.
“We have consistently said that restoring a policy of full inclusion for transgender troops would be straightforward,” Aaron Belkin, the director of the Palm Center, said in a statement. “This is a big step toward making our military stronger and fairer, and it recognizes years of research showing that a single standard for all service members improves readiness and allows for the widest possible pool of qualified personnel.”
John F. Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said during a news conference that the Defense Department would “lead by example” on the issue of transgender rights.
An estimated 1,000 to 8,000 service members identify as transgender, Stephanie Miller, the director of the Pentagon’s Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, said at the news conference, though Defense Department officials acknowledge that number is imprecise and could be higher. She also said that the estimated costs for medical treatment for transgender troops, which President Donald J. Trump cited as a reason for the ban, would be “a handful of a million dollars” per year.
“The Pentagon absolutely did the right thing today by re-establishing a policy of inclusion for transgender service members, who once again will be able to serve openly and proudly in their self-identified gender,” Representative Jackie Speier, Democrat of California and a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said in a statement.
While the move was expected, the swiftness with which it happened signaled a willingness by the Biden administration to put its stamp on social issues at the Defense Department. The Pentagon has also been looking at how the military has handled sexual assault issues.