Reported Ban on Transgender Military Health Care and Deployment Condemned

Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund Condemns Reported Ban on Transgender Military Health Care and Deployment

New York, NY – Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund today responded to reports that the White House is forwarding guidance to military officials that directs Defense Secretary James Mattis to implement policy within six months to cease all transgender-related medical treatment and to use standards of “deployability” to filter out transgender service members. Deployability refers to a determination of whether an individual can function in a war zone. The concerns about trans military service cited by the Administration are clearly disproven by the evidence.

Statement from TLDEF Executive Director, Jillian Weiss:

“This news is yet another attack on brave transgender Americans who are serving in our nation’s Armed Forces with with dignity and distinction. We strongly condemn these actions by the Trump Administration that will put transgender troops in harm’s way.”

“Transgender people have always been in the military, and always will be. Studies show they serve in the military at about twice the rate of the rest of the population. Studies, including a government-sponsored Rand Corporation study of the U.S. military, have shown that transgender people can ably serve our country without any medical problems, including in deployable areas. Thousands of trans service members have served in the U.S. military without issue. Transgender military personnel serve in the militaries of 18 other countries around the world, including U.S. allies.”

“U.S. federal courts have ruled that singling out of transgender people by the government for prejudicial treatment falls afoul of the U.S. Constitution, including denial of medical treatment. The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR)  and GLBTQ Advocates and Defenders brought a federal lawsuit two weeks ago on the grounds that a military ban would violate the Constitution. The lawsuit rests on claims of equal protection and due process, and based on the inequity of the reversal of military policy after thousands of service members followed protocol and informed their chain of command that they are transgender. This decision will be reversed by the federal courts, which have long recognized that our Constitution does not allow our government to demean our citizens because of prejudice, in whatever guise presented.”

“Having represented transgender personnel to be sent to deployable areas in a discrimination lawsuit, and worked with experts on the issue, it is clear that the relatively minor medical needs of most transgender personnel are no more burdensome than many other medical conditions permitted in deployable areas.”

“Transgender people have been and will continue to be loyal and effective service members protecting our country. The question isn’t whether to have trans service members. The question is whether we treat them fairly, and with dignity. The United States was founded on the idea of fairness and equal protection of the law. We should do no less for our transgender service members. The President should reverse this dehumanizing decision immediately.”

TLDEF Board Member and Navy Veteran Alaina Kupec expressed similar concerns: “Once again, fear and ignorance of what it means to be transgender is used to advance blatant discrimination. This will cost the country far more than it ever could potentially save. Replacing one transgender service man or woman is far more expensive than the training already invested in those serving.”

“TLDEF commends all of the brave transgender men and women who have sacrificed their lives in silence and all those who are serving our country with distinction today. Like all members of the armed forces who continually put their lives on the line, transgender service members deserve the dignity that comes with serving openly. TLDEF will continue to advocate for the equality and dignity of transgender people through our impact litigation, educational programs, and Name Change Project.”


2 thoughts on “Reported Ban on Transgender Military Health Care and Deployment Condemned

  1. Melanie,

    As you know from our discussions, I’m very proud of our military leadership for taking the lead and working to ensure that the U.S. military is a safe and welcoming workplace for LGBTQI service members – including trans-gender Soldiers. We have posted videos and directed all leaders to watch them and we have had in-person classes for both our civilian employees and our uniformed leaders. I have watched the videos and attended the training seminars put on my JAGs and military leaders. Please also see https://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/features/2016/0616_policy/DoD-Instruction-1300.28.pdf. These are very detailed instructions from 2016 and worth reading. It includes full discussions on medical care for trans-gender service members.

    As trans-gender service members have “transitions,” so has the military!

    * * *

    If the issue is “deployability,” then it is no issue, and this may soon come as a surprise to the administration. I am a diabetic. At the moment, my diabetes requires me to take Tru-licity, a once-a-week injection that has to be refrigerated. I also take syn-jardy and my blood sugar is at about 120 which is GREAT!

    It used to be that we could deploy, if we were just on pills that did not have to be refrigerated, but if we used insulin that had to be refrigerated, then we could not deploy: Iraq, Afghanistan, HOA and remote locations in Korea do not have refrigeration that is consistent or reliable and our Soldiers who are out on maneuvers often go on patrol for 7-14 days in remote villages.

    But those were the days of the “Surges” in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, even if you just take pills, the military has determined that you have a “Deployability Limiting Condition.” This was always true, if you took medicine that has to be refrigerated.

    As a Soldier, I know that “We train to deploy.” Garrison duty is for civilians. If my condition had happened earlier in my career, I would have had to leave the Army, however my condition was diagnosed, when I already had 18 years of service, so I was in what Congress calls “sanctuary” and will not be discharged or removed because of this. Even so, I am working on weight loss to control my diabetes through diet and exercise, only. I truly do want to deploy one more time, in service to my country – or at least to present myself, should the need arise. I hope I will succeed.

    In case anyone is wondering, the military has the same Equal Opportunity rules for uniformed service members as we do for civilian employees with two exceptions: the DoD does have the right to discriminate against uniformed service members based on age and disability.

    I don’t like referring to the term “gender dysphoria” because that seems to make it like a psychosis, if I must be honest with you, Melanie: it sounds too much like the ignorant and out-dated “gender confusion disorder.”

    However the term gender “dysphoria” correctly refers to the anxiety or restlessness with the persistent feeling that a person is not the gender that they were identified with at birth. “Feeling that your body does not reflect your true gender can cause severe distress, anxiety, and depression. “Dysphoria” is a feeling of dissatisfaction, anxiety, and restlessness. With gender dysphoria, the discomfort with your male or female body can be so intense that it can interfere with your normal life, for instance at school or work or during social activities.” http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/gender-dysphoria#1.

    Whatever the term that we correctly use, it is a recognized MEDICAL condition. It normally has to have existed for at least 6 months for an accurate diagnosis. Counseling is one form of treatment. So is hormone replacement therapy and sexual reassignment surgery. Surgery for a knee problem, a tooth extraction, or even treatable cancer may take a service member temporarily out of the fight.

    The fact that reassignment surgery means a service member will be laid up or undeployable for a while is a complete non-issue or non-argument. People who have traveled to Thailand or Iran (number one capital of the world for sexual reassignment!) have come back quickly and spent minimal time “recuperating.” I assisted a woman who had transitioned from a man with help to change the gender on her birth certificate with the state, when I worked at Fort Wainwright, where I was a civilian legal assistance attorney. She was a retired veteran who worked as a civilian employee at our commissary. She described her experience as a great experience by caring people and his co-workers welcomed her back and were happy to continue to work with her.

    The proper legal issue comes down to this: Does the gender dysphoria treatment that the service member is receiving require refrigeration of medicine that effectively prevents that person from deploying, in service to our country.

    I note in passing that I know of a few service members who had cancer, while they were in the Army. Because of that, they could not take the drugs necessary to prevent shock or infection from sarin gas or other chemical weapons attacks: the cancer and the drugs they used for it lowered their immune system. (The same is true for people who receive organ transplants and take the drugs to prevent rejection, if I am not mistaken). In at least one case, I know the Army chose to retain a Judge Advocate who had been treated for cancer, after he joined the Army. That Soldier could not deploy to a combat zone, at least not in the ’00’s, in Iraq or Afghanistan. If that remains the case, I would ask the DoD to consider treating trans-gender Soldiers who are not deployable in the same way.

    * * *

    As to costs, like any valid MEDICAL condition, insurance should pay for treatment. In the military, our Tricare insurance (by Humana) pays for various costs including having a child, treating a broken arm, or even treating cancer or HIV/AIDS for the service member, or a dependent. It is the “cost of doing business” like any other employer in America so that we may attract “the best of the best” to serve in difficult situations under sometimes impossible conditions. This is true, especially if the person needing treatment is a dependent – no service member needs to go off to war and spent months, worrying about loved ones at home.

    As taxpayers, we also have the right to demand that Congress set proper work place and employment conditions for our public servants who are – after all – our employees, whether they are civilians or uniformed service members.

    I hope and pray that the military takes a firm hand with this matter and that “a little sky opens up” over the heads of misguided or misinformed individuals who may not understand any of this.

    V/r,

    – Jim Wherry*
    Major, Civil Affairs, U.S. Army Reserve
    and
    civilian Legal Assistance Attorney, U.S. Army

    * Views expressed do not represent those of the Department of Defense, or any component thereof.

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