In Historic Moment, First Transgender Recruit Joins U.S. Armed Forces

In Historic Moment, First Transgender Recruit Joins U.S. Armed Forces

The first transgender person has been allowed to openly enlist in the armed forces after a ban on trans military service was lifted on Jan. 1, according to the Pentagon.

Army Maj. David Eastburn has confirmed the first transgender recruit completed his physical, medical, and psychological exams and signed a contract Friday confirming his enlistment. As Eastburn told INTO over the phone last month, the process of enlisting in the military typically takes between 30 and 90 days to complete.

Eastburn, however, did not state the individual’s name or how many transgender troops have sought enlistment in the two months since the ban was lifted.

The news comes days after Defense Secretary Gen. James Mattis reportedly delivered his recommendations on the future of trans military service to President Donald Trump, who announced last year that he would be blocking transgender troops from joining the armed forces.

In a series of July 2017 tweets, Trump claimed the military “cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption” caused by allowing trans people to serve.

The president signed a directive putting that proposal into effect a month later.

That policy, though, would be blocked by a series of court decisions which held that banning trans people from the armed forces violated the Equal Protection Clause under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which states that the federal government shall not deny any of its citizens “the equal protection of the laws.”

As the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia pointed out in a December ruling, transgender people are “already serving openly in the military.” As many as 15,500 trans troops are currently serving in some capacity, although estimates vary widely.

The recent announcement that a transgender recruit has successfully enlisted is yet another strike against the president’s assertion trans people would be burdensome for the military.

A RAND Corporation study commissioned by the Pentagon in 2016 showed trans inclusion would have a “minimal impact” on troop readiness and health care costs. Providing medical care for transgender troops would increase the military’s overall budget “between $2.4 million and $8.4 million annually,” or less than one percent of total expenditures.

Even if Trump drops his embattled transgender ban, trans troops are likely to continue to face obstacles in joining the armed forces.

As INTO previously reported, the military’s requirement that transgender people be “stable in their preferred gender for 18 months” prior to enlistment may prevent many individuals from seeking recruitment. A 2011 survey from the National Center for Trans Equality found that 39 percent of trans people hadn’t medically transitioned and 67 percent hadn’t surgically transitioned.

Many respondentsincluding 72 percent of trans menclaimed they didn’t plan to surgically transition at all, whether due to the high costs of doing so or unrelated other reasons.

The president has yet to respond to the Pentagon’s announcement on Twitter.

Photo viaNazir Azhari Bin Mohd Anis/EyeEm


Nico Lang

Nico Lang is a staff writer for INTO, covering news, politics, and global LGBTQ issues.