WASHINGTON • US President Donald Trump's controversial ban on transgender Americans in the military came into force yesterday following a protracted legal battle.
Mr Trump's administration has insisted that there is "too great a risk to military effectiveness and lethality" to allow transgender people to serve - reversing a policy enacted under his predecessor, Mr Barack Obama.
The Pentagon says the restrictions are not a blanket ban, but they would bar many if not most people who identify as transgender from enlisting in the United States' armed forces.
The policy - which has undergone various iterations since Mr Trump first announced it on Twitter in July 2017 - has been widely criticised by rights activists and repeatedly challenged in court.
The US Supreme Court ultimately ruled in January that the policy could take effect pending the outcome of ongoing litigation.
Under the latest version of Mr Trump's policy, no one who has transitioned to another gender, been diagnosed with "gender dysphoria" or who requires hormone treatment will be able to enlist.
But currently, enlisted troops who have already transitioned or have requested gender reassignment surgery prior to yesterday will be allowed to remain in the military.
Dr Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Centre, a research institute focusing on sexual minorities in the military, said: "When (the Department of Defence) disqualifies all applicants with a history of gender dysphoria (unless they renounce transgender identity for years) and all applicants who have ever received treatment for gender dysphoria, that is a ban."
The policy "depends on directly banning the transgender people who are immediately identifiable and threatening the rest, forcing them to remain silent and invisible", he added.
The Pentagon estimates that 9,000 people who identify as transgender are currently serving in the military, out of a total of 1.3 million active-duty personnel. Of this figure, a thousand say they have undergone gender reassignment surgery or want to do so.
But according to transgender rights activists, the figure is higher.
"As many as 15,000 transgender service members stand to lose their jobs," Army Staff Sergeant Patricia King, who is transgender, told ABC News this week.