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The Defense Department on Wednesday scrapped policies enacted under former President Donald Trump that made it very hard for transgender people to enlist in the military, serve, or access medical care related to their gender identity. The new policy, which takes effect April 30, largely reinstates transgender policies put in place in 2016 by former President Barack Obama. President Biden signed an executive order in January protecting transgender troops at risk of being expelled from the military under the Trump-era policies.
There are about 15,000 transgender serivce members in the U.S. military, advocates say, and some 2,200 of them have been diagnosed and are seeking care for gender dysphoria, or distress over your gender not matching your birth sex.
"The Trump-era regulations amounted effectively to a ban on transgender troops, according to advocates and activists, who have argued that deepening the enlistment pool to transgender people will help solve the military's perennial challenges to attract enough recruits," The Washington Post reports. Some transgender officers said transgender people are already starting to enlist again.
"We should avail ourselves of the best possible talent in our population, regardless of gender identity," Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in January, referencing Biden's executive order. "This is the right thing to do. It is also the smart thing to do."