It was an about face for the US military on Monday as President Biden signed an executive order now allowing transgender people to openly serve without limitations or restrictions, reversing the Trump administration's 2017 ban.
Ames Simmons is transgender and the policy director at Equality NC. He says the new measure is a relief for his community.
"The military is one of the biggest employers of trans people. Transgender people are more likely to be living in poverty and military service is often seen as a way lifting your family out histories of discrimination and particularly people who are Black, brown and people of color in North Carolina where we have so many military installations," said Simmons.
According to the 2015 U-S Transgender Survey, transgender Americans are twice as likely to have served compared to the general population.
Simmons says Trump's ban preceded by the House Bill 2, the state's so-called transgender bathroom bill made many transgender service members feel unwelcome.
"Many of the people we were speaking with in 2017 have left North Carolina. They decided they would transfer to places that felt safer for them," said Simmons
Lloyd Austin, the nation's first Black Secretary of Defense, says the department will develop a policy over the next 60 days to ensure transgender individuals enter, serve, or reenlist.
Austin's statement reads in part:
"The United States Armed Forces are in the business of defending our fellow citizens from our enemies, foreign and domestic. I believe we accomplish that mission more effectively when we represent all our fellow citizens...This is the right thing to do. It is also the smart thing to do."
Tami Fitzgerald executive director of NC Values Coalition believes Biden's executive orders are dividing the country even more.
"I think it's sad that the new president wants to start his term engaging the military in sexual and social engineering," said Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald says she feels transgender members of the military would negatively impact troop readiness, however, a 2016 study showed there was little to no impact.
Equality NC policy director reacts to Biden lifting Trump ban on transgender people serving in military
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