President Joe Biden on Monday reversed a Trump-era ban on transgender people serving in the U.S. military on Monday.
Army Staff Sgt. Patricia King, who has served in the military for more than two decades and has been out as a trans woman for the past few years, tells NPR’s Sarah McCammon that she and other trans troops have long fought for the right to serve openly and that she hopes to see more legislation from Biden to protect against yet another reversal through executive order.
“The National Defense Authorization Act must have a provision that makes it so that executive orders can’t continue to bounce this issue back and forth,” King says.
Biden’s executive order would also ban discharges and denials of reenlistment on the basis of gender identity, correct the records of those denied from service because of their gender identity and order the secretary of defense and the secretary of homeland security to reallow transgender troops.
Studies, like the one from the National LGBTQ Task Force, suggest that trans people are likely to serve in the military at about double the rate of the overall U.S. population. There is an estimated 15,000 transgender troops serving in the U.S. military, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality.
Trump first ordered the ban on transgender troops in July 2017, via Twitter.
In his tweet he wrote: “After consultation with my generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military.” A month later he signed a directive that made the order official. But it was blocked by numerous federal courts until 2019, when the Supreme Court weighed in.
Although Trump was the one who signed the ban, it was up to then-Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis to implement it. King says it is now up to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who was confirmed into the position last Friday, to work with his staff to carry out Biden’s reversal.
King says she’s concerned with how long that will take. “We’ve already had two studies on this,” she says. “It’s time for us to see action. And that’s my hope – is that we will see action quickly on this.”
The process to implement Biden’s order should take around 60 days, according to a statement from Austin on Monday. After the initial two month period, Biden will ask for a progress report from both the secretary of defense and secretary of homeland security.
When Trump first spoke of the ban, he cited financial reasons — despite a Rand Corporation study commissioned by the Department of Defense that showed otherwise.
Biden cited that one from 2016 in his executive order: “the Department of Defense found that enabling transgender individuals to serve openly in the United States military would have only a minimal impact on military readiness and healthcare costs.”
Hear the full conversation with Staff Sgt. King at the audio link above. You can also hear her on Morning Edition in 2019 when the Supreme Court allowed the Trump administration to enforce its ban on transgender military personnel.