During an appearance on ABC’s This Week, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel indicated that he might be willing to consider changing the United States military’s current policy of banning transgender people from its ranks. “I do think it continually should be reviewed,” Hagel said when asked about the ban. “I’m open to those assessments, because, again, I go back to the bottom line, every qualified American who wants to serve our country should have an opportunity if they fit the qualifications and can do it.” However, he also said that deciding to let transgender people serve would be “a bit more complicated” than the 2011 repeal of the military’s ban on openly gay service members because “it has a medical component to it.” As the New York Times noted, a recent study indicated that there are already around 15,000 transgender people in the military. Whether or not officials would seriously think about letting them be open about their identities at work is unclear, but it’s encouraging to see that Hagel isn’t dismissing the idea outright.
“I want to say at once that this would be a catastrophe for the region” that may stoke “a surge in violence and perhaps an increase in the number of refugees,” he said during his annual televised call-in show.