The White House issued a memorandum late on March 23 authorizing Defense Secretary James Mattis to “exercise his authority to implement any appropriate policies concerning military service by transgender individuals.” Mattis has already made recommendations for what these policies will be:
Allowed: Transgender persons without a diagnosis of gender dysphoria may serve, “like all other Service members,” in their biological sex, providing they meet the usual standards for service.
Disqualified: Transgender persons who require or have undergone gender transition.
Disqualified, with exceptions: Those with gender dysphoria.
One notable exception to the last point is for those already serving. In effect, they are grandfathered in and “may continue to serve in their preferred gender and receive medically necessary treatment for gender dysphoria.” This speaks well of the administration advisory panel’s integrity to honor previously made commitments, as President Obama had allowed openly transgender soldiers to serve and required taxpayers to pay for their physical alterations.
As a former transgender person, I agree with these policies. Bravo to President Trump and Mattis for making a common-sense decision based on solid reasoning, and not being bullied into making disastrous military policy to pacify non-military voices.
From Tweet to Studied Policy
President Trump asked Mattis to make policy recommendations last summer, after Trump’s infamous tweet announcing a ban on transgender persons from serving in the military and a subsequent court injunction against it.
In response to the president’s request, Mattis established a panel of experts “that included senior uniformed and civilian leaders of the Department and U.S. Coast Guard, many with experience leading Service members in peace and war. The Panel made recommendations based on each Panel member’s independent military judgment.” Mattis charged the panel to “provide its best military advice based on increasing the lethality and readiness of America’s armed forces.”
The panel received input from transgender service members and their commanders, military medical professionals, and civilian medical professionals with experience in this area. They also had access to the Department of Defense’s experience from the past year of open transgender military service.
What the Panel Concluded
From the panel’s recommendations came two items: 1) Mattis’ three-page memorandum for the president summarizing his recommendations, and 2) a 44-page “Department of Defense Report and Recommendations on Military Service by Transgender Persons (Feb. 2018)” that provided the in-depth reasoning behind the proposals.
The Mattis memorandum starts with definitions that are pivotal to the policy: “transgender” and “gender dysphoria.” “Transgender” describes persons whose gender identity differs from their biological sex. Within that group is a subset of transgender persons who are diagnosed with “gender dysphoria,” a discomfort with their biological sex, which results in significant distress or difficulty functioning.
In general usage, the two groups are often considered one and the same. But by separating those who have “significant distress or difficulty functioning” from those who do not, the military policy can be finely tuned to permit some to serve, while restricting those whose service would come with substantial risks.
The previous administration based its policy on a study prepared by the RAND National Defense Research Institute that calculated the costs and effects of allowing transgender persons to serve and transition during active duty. Further investigation into the RAND report’s assumptions found the study contained “significant shortcomings,” Mattis’s memorandum said. It glossed over the effects of the Obama administration decision on medical costs and unit cohesion. As Mattis said, “In short, this policy issue has proven more complex than the prior administration or RAND assumed.”
The panel managed to examine all sides of the many dilemmas the military faced with Solomonic wisdom and opened a way for those serving under the previous policy to continue to serve. The policy promotes and safeguards unit cohesion. The DOD report provides the reasoning behind the decision to deny people with gender dysphoria the privilege of serving.
No Evidence Cross-Sex Procedures Work
While standards of care have evolved over the past four decades for transgender health (WPATH SOC), they are based on LGBT activists’ political views and real-life trial and error. What has been lacking for 40 years is any scientific proof of efficacy. It is gratifying to see Mattis’s report elaborate on the uncertainty that underlies the recommended transition treatment:
Underlying these conclusions is the considerable scientific uncertainty and overall lack of high quality scientific evidence demonstrating the extent to which transition-related treatments, such as cross-sex hormone therapy and sex reassignment surgery—interventions which are unique in psychiatry and medicine—remedy the multifaceted mental health problems associated with gender dysphoria.
It succinctly points to the lack of evidence that cross-sex medical procedures work, how the treatment is unlike any others in all of medicine, and how complex the problems associated with gender dysphoria are. All of these explain why the military should not be the place for such experimentation.
In a previous article, “President Trump, Do Not Turn The Military Into A Federally Funded Sex Change Clinic,” I highlighted the emotional and physical trauma resulting from cross-sex hormone treatment in the case of former transgender person Jamie Shupe, a retired sergeant first class from the U.S. Army. His story illustrates the unforeseen consequences of the still-experimental cross-sex hormone therapy prescribed for gender dysphoria and its real link to suicide and depression.
Over the last 40 years, hormone therapies and sex-alteration surgeries have produced high rates of suicides, unhappiness, and, for some like Shupe, deep distress that led to medical complications and stopping the therapy. The military is not the place to advance a “politically correct” experiment with cross-gender hormone therapy on troops and veterans. The risks to the individuals and to military readiness are too high.
The policies Mattis put forward fulfill the need to have a psychologically healthy, emotionally sound, physically fit, combat-ready fighting force, not individuals who are distracted by the need for hormone injections and gaining access to a sex-alteration clinic at the expense of military fitness, readiness, and public funds.
Trump and the military will take considerable heat from the activists who are relentless in forcing transgender privileges into every cranny and crevice of our society. But the military scored a victory in this case. Mattis and Trump protected military readiness from a political activist agenda, freeing the military to be laser-focused on its mission to prepare and maintain battle-ready forces.