If transgender volunteers are deemed fit for duty by the Pentagon, the Navy should provide opportunities for them to serve and be successful, the service's top enlisted sailor said Tuesday.
The Defense Department currently bans service for transgender people, but Defense Secretary Ash Carter recently signaled he would be open to lifting the ban.
"My philosophy has always been this, that as a leader, I have a duty and responsibility to provide an opportunity where every sailor can be successful — and that we're going to do that while treating one another with dignity and respect," he said.
"So, that's it, I don't pass judgment on any sailor and I don't hold anything against sailors but what I do as a leader is set conditions and provide opportunity for them to be successful, plain and simple. As the master chief petty officer of the Navy, I see sailors."
Current DoD policy bans service for transgender people under a regulation against those with a "current or history of psychosexual conditions, including but not limited to transsexualism, exhibitionism, transvestism, voyeurism and other paraphilias."
"... I'm very open-minded about ... what their personal lives and proclivities are, provided they can do what we need them to do for us. That's the important criteria. Are they going to be excellent service members?" said Carter, who took over as SECDEF in mid-February.
Pentagon spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Nathan Christensen told Military Times that the department is not specifically reviewing its transgender policy, but acknowledged that military health officials in February began reviewing the current medical accessions policy, which includes the ban on transsexualism as a psychosexual condition.
The review is expected to take 12 to 18 months, Christensen said.
Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michelle Howard discussed considerations about allowing transgender people to serve at a March 8 all hands call. Howard, above, spoke at an all hands call in August at Naval Air Station North Island, Calif.
Photo Credit: MC3 Bradley Gee/Navy
"In some countries, the process of becoming transgender, would make them a criminal in that country. And there are some pretty horrific sentences," she said.
"The other question is, how proactive is the person in that process?" Howard continued. "Just like any medical condition where someone needs a lot of medical help because they are working through the process. Then that might [impact] their ability to be worldwide deployable."
Howard did not come down for or against, but said it's a conversation that will go on at a higher level.
"My take is that we need to get together as leaders and we need to have the conversation, and we need to figure out how to best proceed so we can provide all of our sailors with the opportunities I just talked about," he said.
"So whatever comes to us, we will do our very best to work through that in a comprehensive and appropriate way, and darn it, we will treat everybody that has blood running through their veins with dignity and respect." he said.
Staff writers David Larter and Mark D. Faram contributed to this report.
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.