WASHINGTON, DC Today, at a town hall in Kandahar, Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter answered a question concerning service by transgender people, saying "I don't think anything but their suitability for service should preclude them." The American Military Partner Association, the nation's largest organization of LGBT military families, responded to the statement with a call to action urging the Secretary to quickly order the long awaited review of outdated regulations that prevent the estimated 15,500 transgender service members currently in uniform from serving openly and honestly.
"Secretary Carter is right in that their ability to serve is the only thing that should matter," said AMPA President Ashley Broadway-Mack. "Thousands of transgender service members ARE currently doing the job, and doing it well, but are forced to do so in silence - forced to lie about something as fundamental as who they are in order to continue to serve. While we applaud Secretary Carter for being 'open-minded' on this issue, we urge him to take action that will lead to ending this ban that continues to harm our transgender service members and their families."
When asked, "What are your thoughts on transgender service members serving in an austere environment like this here in Kandahar? Secretary Carter replied: "I come at that from a fundamental starting point. It's not something I've studied a lot since I became secretary of defense. But I come at this kind of question from a fundamental starting point, which is that we want to make our conditions and experience of service as attractive as possible to our best people in our country. And I'm very open-minded about otherwise about what their personal lives and proclivities are, provided they can do what we need them to do for us. That's the important criteria. Are they going to be excellent service members? And I don't think anything but their suitability for service should preclude them."
"In the work I do with AMPA, I see the heartbreaking ramifications this ban continues to have on military and veteran families," added Gene Silvestri, AMPA Veterans Affairs Coordinator and a transgender U.S. Army veteran. "They are fearful of what will happen. And it affects the children also, not understanding why their parent cannot be their authentic self at work. It hurts the entire family."
The American Military Partner Association is the nation's largest organization of partners, spouses, families, and allies of America's LGBT service members and veterans. With over 40,000 members and supporters, AMPA is committed to education, advocacy, and support for our "modern military families."
Palm Center response to Defense Secretary Carter's remarks on transgender service today in Kandahar
SAN FRANCISCO, CA — In response to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter's comments today in Kandahar, Afghanistan on whether transgender personnel can serve effectively in austere environments, Palm Center director Aaron Belkin issued the following statement:
"In response to a question today about whether transgender troops can serve in austere environments, Secretary Carter asked, 'are they going to be excellent service members?' The answer to this question, based on the experiences of 15,500 transgender troops who are already serving, as well as academic research, is an unqualified yes.
"A recent Palm Center study by a former US Surgeon General and retired General and Flag Officers addressed the issue of deployment in austere conditions explicitly and concluded that 'there is no compelling rationale for banning transgender military service' and that 'With few exceptions, transgender service members are deployable and medically ready.'
"Another recent Palm Center study by a former US Army Surgeon General and retired General Officers concluded that, 'formulating and implementing inclusive policy [for transgender personnel] is administratively feasible and neither excessively complex nor burdensome.'"
About The Palm Center
The Palm Center is an independent research institute committed to sponsoring state-of-the-art scholarship to enhance the quality of public dialogue about critical and controversial issues of the day.
For the past decade, the Palm Center's research on sexual minorities in the military has been published in leading social scientific journals. The Palm Center seeks to be a resource for university-affiliated as well as independent scholars, students, journalists, opinion leaders, and members of the public. For more information, see www.palmcenter.org