The Pentagon announced its lifting of the ban of transgender people in the military on Thursday, the same day that UCLA’s Williams Institute released the findings of a study that estimates that 1.4 million Americans identify as such. (TIME writes that UCLA’s updated number is based on 19 state-level surveys conducted in 2014 and data from the U.S. Census Bureau, methods of survey that are more “robust” than the methods used to issue figures in a 2011 study.)
The military’s shift in policy coincides with Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s admission that studies have shown that transgender people are already actively serving in the military. The lifting of the ban mirrors the 2011 decisions to end the ban on openly gay people serving in the military.
It arrives amid heated controversy in the U.S. over transgender people’s use of bathrooms. North Carolina passed a law in March requiring transgender people to use public restrooms that match the sex listed on their birth certificates. This week, a coalition of 11 states filing a federal lawsuit against the Obama administration’s transgender guidance received support from various members of Congress. (The administration and the Justice and Education departments recently directed public schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms that match their gender identity. States that fail to comply risk losing federal education funding.)
On all fronts, traditionally slow-moving American institutions, like the military and education systems, are trying to navigate a cultural landscape that includes LGBTQ people. So far, in an unusual twist, the military seems to be taking the more liberal stance on inclusion.