(Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Defense is assessing its ability to recruit transgender people as soon as 1 July, according to a memo signed by a top Pentagon official and seen by Reuters.
The Pentagon ended its ban on openly transgender people serving in the U.S. military last year under Defense Secretary Ash Carter. That repeal lowered one of the last barriers on who could serve in the military and came after a 2011 decision to end the U.S. military's ban on openly gay and lesbian people.
A Pentagon spokesperson verified the contents of the memo but declined further comment on the document.
The memo instructed each military branch to examine their "readiness to begin assessing transgender applicants into military service on July 1, 2017."
In the memo, dated 8 May, Defense Secretary Robert Work instructed chiefs of each military branch and service secretaries to submit their reports by 31 May.
Up to 10,700 transgender people may be serving in the U.S. military out of a personnel of 1.4 million, according to a 2016 study by the RAND Corporation, a California-based defense think tank. But only a handful have so far sought for their gender to be changed in military records.
SPART*A, an online support group that includes roughly 500 active-duty transgender members of the military, said at least 10 transgender soldiers had sought to formally register their preferred gender.
"We've got many more who started their process a little later than that and they're working their way through the administrative process," said Blake Dremann, SPART*A's president.
An Army spokesman declined to confirm the figure, while the U.S. Department of Defense said the number across the armed forces was "small."
Most U.S. transgender military veteran and active-duty service members have been harassed at work, according to a 2013 study by the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Such discrimination is likely to discourage transgender service members from making the leap to serving openly, said Denny Meyer, a spokesman for the Transgender American Veterans Association.
"Transgender service members have been the most discriminated against," he said in a telephone interview.