Dozens of transgender individuals have expressed interest in joining the military since the Pentagon opened recruiting to them on Jan. 1, according to a group that has advocated their cause.
They are the first wave of transgender volunteers to the armed services after federal courts compelled the Pentagon to begin accepting them under an Obama-era policy that President Trump administration had sought to overturn.
“From what we are seeing, the enlistment process appears to be going smoothly, as we expected it would," Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said on Friday. “Transgender people must meet the same qualifications as others, and military recruiters are well-prepared to guide applicants through the process.”
The Pentagon has no figures on how many transgender people have approached recruiters about joining since Jan. 1, said Army Maj. Dave Eastburn, a Defense Department spokesman. It generally takes several weeks from first contact with a recruiter to signing a contract and officially joining the military.
The Pentagon delayed the July 1, 2017 deadline set under the Obama administration for accepting transgender recruits and officer candidates, saying it required more study. Later in July, Trump tweeted that there was no room for transgender troops anywhere in the military. That sent Pentagon officials scrambling to assure those serving that they would not be drummed from the ranks and to launch a reassessment of the policy.
In September, Defence Secretary Jim Mattis announced that a new, comprehensive strategy on transgender troops would be established by Feb. 21 based on input from a panel of experts.