The US military has joined the ranks of Australia and the UK in allowing transgender members to serve openly in the armed forces.
The Pentagon’s announcement will ensure no-one can be “discharged or denied re-enlistment” based on gender identity.
Transgender service members will also receive the same medical coverage and protocols as any other military member — receiving all medical care that their doctors deem necessary.
For current members of the military, this coverage will include hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery if doctors determine that such procedures are medically necessary.
Incoming service members must be “stable” in gender identity for 18 months before joining the military.
Defence Secretary Ash Carter said the policy was “a matter of principle” and said he had consulted transgender service members over the years to discuss how best to meet their needs.
“We don’t want barriers unrelated to a person’s qualification to serve preventing us from recruiting or retaining the soldier, sailor, airman or marine who can best accomplish the mission,” he said.
“We have to have access to 100% of America’s population. Although relatively few in number, we’re talking about talented and trained Americans who are serving their country with honour and distinction.
“We want to take the opportunity to retain people whose talent we’ve invested in and who’ve proven themselves.”
Jamie Ewing, who was kicked out of the US Army for being transgender, told the BBC she was happy to hear the news.
“I am very pleased,” she said. “I look forward to re-enlisting and to hopefully wear my uniform again sometime in the near future as a soldier in the US Army.”
The policy will be phased in over the next 12 months.