Biden Reverses Trump’s Transgender Military Ban

“Simply put, it’s the right thing to do and is in our national interest.” 

Jabin Botsford/Washington Post/Getty

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

More than three years after Donald Trump tweeted into existence a ban against transgender service members, his successor has reversed it. 

On Monday morning, President Biden repealed the controversial order ahead of the swearing-in of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. “Allowing all qualified Americans to serve their country in uniform is better for the military and better for the country because an inclusive force is a more effective force,” a White House press release stated. “Simply put, it’s the right thing to do and is in our national interest.” 

Trump’s July 2017 tweets, which said the military would no longer “accept or allow” trans service members to serve “in any capacity,” eventually triggered a legal battle before a watered-down policy was implemented in April 2019. That policy, which the Pentagon refused to call a ban, barred enlistees who have had sex reassignment surgery or a “history of gender dysphoria” from joining the military—with limited exceptions. As I reported at the time:

Service members who are given a diagnosis of gender dysphoria after April 12 won’t be able to receive hormones or undergo sex-transition surgery. They will also be forced to adhere to the standards of their birth sex—determining everything from their names on paperwork to the length of their hair—which advocates compare to the days of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, when queer service members could only express their true selves in private.  

Now that ban is history and the lawyers who fought to defeat it in court are celebrating. 

“President Biden’s order allows us to put this shameful episode behind us and marks the beginning of a much brighter era in which military service is once again based on a person’s qualifications, not on who they are,” Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said in a statement. “Transgender people have proved their fitness to serve and ask nothing more than the opportunity to do so based on the same standards that apply to others. This is a great day for our nation and a welcome relief from the negative and divisive policies of the past four years.”

Biden’s order reversing the ban also directed the military to reexamine and correct the records of service members affected by Trump’s policy. For members of the military whose status in the military was thrown into limbo following Trump’s tweets, the reversal finally provides some stability. 

“President Biden’s restoration of open service recognizes transgender service members as an integral part of our military and closes a dark chapter of history,” Emma Shinn, a Marine Corps captain and president of advocacy group SPART*A, said in a statement. “I am elated that the approximately 15,000 transgender service members proudly serving across the globe can rest easier knowing that their service to our nation is seen, valued and that they can continue to serve as their authentic selves.”

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. It's our first time asking for an outpouring of support since screams of FAKE NEWS and so much of what Trump stood for made everything we do so visceral. Like most newsrooms, we face incredibly hard budget realities, and it's unnerving needing to raise big money when traffic is down.

So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate