March 23, 2018 at 7:20 pm PST | by Chris Johnson
Trump issues (moot) memo affirming ban on transgender military service
CPAC, gay news, Washington Blade

President Donald Trump announced a new ban on transgender military service. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Consistent with expectations for timing for the new policy, President Trump issued a memo late Friday on transgender military service that — while moot thanks to court orders against banning transgender troops — nonetheless reaffirms policy against their service.

In the memo dated March 23, Trump defers on the transgender military issue to Defense Secretary James Mattis and based on his recommendation asserts transgender people shouldn’t be allowed to serve “except under certain limited circumstances.”

“Among other things, the policies set forth by the secretary of defense state that transgender persons with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria — individuals who the policies state may require substantial medical treatment, including medications and surgery — are disqualified from military service except under certain limited circumstances,” Trump writes.

Despite media reports indicating Mattis recommended transgender people say in the armed forces, reveals in fact he advised the president that having gender dysphoria, a common characteristic for transgender people, should be a disqualified factor for military service.

“The Department of Defense concludes that there are substantial risks associated with allowing the accession and retention of individuals with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria and require, or have already undertaken, a course of treatment to change their gender,” Mattis writes. “Furthermore, the department also finds that exempting such persons from well-established mental health, physical health, and sex-based standards, which apply to all service members, including transgender service members without gender dysphoria, could undermine readiness, disrupt unit cohesion and impose an unreasonable burden on the military that is not conducive to military effectiveness and lethality.”

Although Trump defers to Mattis on implementing the prohibition on transgender military service, the action is moot because four trial courts and two circuit courts have determined barring transgender people from the military because of their gender identity. Hours before the memo was issued, a Pentagon spokesperson told the Blade the military “will still comply with federal court rulings and continue to assess and retain transgender service members.”

Mattis purports to have come to this recommendation after convening a months-long study that took input from transgender service members and medical professionals, but the conclusions are contrary to mainstream medical views, which don’t consider being transgender a mental illness. In fact, the American Medical Association in 2015 came out against banning transgender people in the armed forces.

Aaron Belkin, director of the San Francisco-based Palm Center, said in a statement the methodology upon which the Pentagon is faulty and seeks to justify discrimination.

“Today’s announcement fulfills President Trump’s July 2017 tweet calling for the reinstatement of the transgender military ban,” Belkin said. “In service to the ideological goals of the Trump-Pence base, the Pentagon has distorted the science on transgender health to prop up irrational and legally untenable discrimination that will erode military readiness. There is no evidence to support a policy that bars from military service patriotic Americans who are medically fit and able to deploy. Our troops and our nation deserve better.”

More to come…

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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