WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Sunday the military should “continually” review its prohibition on transgender people serving in the armed forces, calling into question whether the Pentagon’s ban may eventually be lifted, as was the ban on gay men and lesbians in the military.
While any such a reversal appears to be far in the future — the Pentagon’s stock talking points on the issue have been that it is under continuous review — Hagel, appearing on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, pronounced himself “open” to a review of the policy.
“Every qualified American who wants to serve our country should have an opportunity if they fit the qualifications and can do it,” he said.
But he allowed that the transgender issue was “a bit more complicated because it has a medical component to it.”
In the US military, transgender servicemembers can be summarily dismissed, as Defense Department guidelines describe transgender people as sexual deviants and their condition as “paraphilia,” with its connotations of the atypical and extreme.
A panel affiliated with San Francisco State University estimated in March that more than 15,000 transgender individuals were serving in the military and the National Guard and Reserve.
Officials who worked on that study say that transgender people are overrepresented in the military, compared with the rest of America, because many male-to-female transgender individuals enlist to try to submerge their feminine sides, while many female-to-male transgender people enlist because they want to be in a hypermasculine environment.