This week, the American Medical Association (AMA) adopted a resolution opposing the military’s exclusion of transgender individuals from service. The largest association of physicians approved the measure by a reportedly unanimous voice vote.
The resolution outlines why the military’s continued policy of rejecting and discharging trans service members should be lifted:
- Estimates suggest there are over 15,000 transgender personnel serving in silence.
- Not only do policies block transgender service, but they prohibit doctors from providing medically necessary treatment for gender dysphoria.
- There is no sound medical rationale for excluding transgender individuals from military service.
- Medical regulations for other conditions are regularly updated to reflect scientific consensus and best practices, but the policies on gender identity are significantly out of date.
- Medical regulations generally work to achieve a balance between retention and fitness for duty, but those applying to transgender personnel require their exclusion regardless of their fitness for duty or need for medical care.
- Medical regulations are designed to maintain and restore health, but the rules for gender identity actually inhibit doctors from taking care of patients.
The AMA resolution follows a high-profile editorial from the New York Times calling for an end to the ban on transgender service, as well as an announcement from the Air Force that it would be changing its policies to make it harder to discharge transgender troops. Other branches are not currently following suit, though the Army made some similar changes last year.
This week, Jamie Lee Henry, a doctor and major in the Army’s Medical Corps, became the first active-duty Army officer to come out as transgender. The Army actually accommodated her name and gender changes on her records, despite the prohibitive policy being on the books. She told BuzzFeed that transitioning has greatly improved her life. “People say, ‘Is this a choice?’ The choice is being healthy or sick. I can continue living a sick life, or I can live a healthy life” — and she says she’s chosen health. She also made it clear, “My story is not unique.”
New Defense Secretary Ash Carter says he supports lifting the ban, but it remains in place for now. Unlike “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” a law passed by Congress limiting the service of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people, the transgender ban can simply be lifted by the military itself.