The Trump White House announced a revised ban on transgender troops from serving in the military. The ban would apply to individuals who have been stable in their biological sex for less than thirty-six months, who were diagnosed with gender dysphoria prior to joining the military and do not require a change of gender, and Service members who joined after the end of the Obama administration.
Last year the Trump administration announced a full ban on transgender troops from serving “in any capacity” in the U.S. armed forces. The President made the announcements in a series of tweets last July.
“After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow…Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming…victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you,” the President wrote.
The new ban was formed after a policy review conducted by the Department of Defense.
In the wake of last year’s announcement, Secretary of Defense James Mattis created a panel of senior DoD military and civilian leaders to develop policy proposals. That panel found that allowing transgender individuals with a history of gender dysphoria to serve carries with it “substantial risks,” and that excluding those individuals from Service-wide mental and physical health standards could decrease readiness and impose an unreasonable burden on military effectiveness and lethality.
The White House endorsed the panel’s findings and announced that the new policy will supersede the old one. “This new policy will enable the military to apply well-established mental and physical health standards — including those regarding the use of medical drugs — equally to all individuals who want to join and fight for the best military force the world has ever seen,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.
Pro-transgender activists accused the White House’s move of being motivated by bias. “What the White House has released tonight is transphobia masquerading as policy,” senior staff attorney for the ACLU Joshua Blocks said. “This policy is not based on an evaluation of new evidence. It is reverse-engineered for the sole purpose of carrying out President Trump’s reckless and unconstitutional ban, undermining the ability of transgender service members to serve openly and military readiness as a whole.”
But Secretary Mattis characterized it as a necessary cost. “By its very nature, military service requires sacrifice,” he wrote in a memo to the President. “The men and women who serve voluntarily accept limitations on their personal liberties – freedom of speech, political activity, freedom of movement – in order to provide the military lethality and readiness necessary to ensure American citizens enjoy their personal freedoms to the fullest extent.”
“In my professional judgment,” he wrote, “these policies will place the Department of Defense in the strongest position to protect the American people, to fight and win America’s wars and to ensure the survival and success of our Service members around the world.”