STUDY: Military Should Abandon Policy Banning Transgender Servicemembers

CREDIT: AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli.

Army Reserve Capt. Sage Fox was placed on inactive status after she began taking female hormones and living as a woman.

A commission convened by the Palm Center and led by former U.S. surgeon general Dr. Joycelyn Elders has found that there is absolutely nothing that substantiates the military’s continued policy of refusing to allow transgender people to serve. According to the report, the policy does not reflect any valid medical reason for exclusion, and it actually results in greater expense to the military and health consequences for the trans troops serving in silence:

We determined not only that there is no compelling medical reason for the ban, but also that the ban itself is an expensive, damaging and unfair barrier to health care access for the approximately 15,450 transgender personnel who serve currently in the active, Guard and reserve components. Medical regulations requiring the discharge of transgender personnel are inconsistent with how the military regulates all other medical and psychological conditions, and transgender-related conditions appear to be the only gender-related conditions that require discharge irrespective of fitness for duty.

Unlike “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which addressed the service of people based on their sexual orientation, there is no congressional statute dictating the ban on transgender servicemembers. As Commander in Chief, President Obama could direct the Pentagon and the various branches of the military to amend these policies without needing legislative approval to do so.

The American Psychiatric Association no longer diagnoses transgender identities as a mental disorder. Still, trans people can experience stress and other mental health issues if they are unable to accommodate their transitions. Lifting the policy would ensure that trans people can access the health care that they need without worrying that it will endanger their ability to continue serving.

At least 12 other countries already allow trans people to serve in their militaries, including: Australia, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Israel, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

Watch the Palm Center’s Aaron Belkin explain the report to the AP: