July 22, 2019

Defense Secretary Nominee Mark Esper Made Inaccurate and Misleading Claims about Transgender Ban

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – In advance of Defense Secretary nominee Mark Esper’s forthcoming Senate confirmation vote, Palm Center director Aaron Belkin offered the following response to Esper’s recent comments and written statements about the transgender ban:

“Mark Esper appears to be knowingly advancing a highly misleading talking point in defense of Trump’s indefensible transgender ban: that it doesn’t exist. In claiming that ‘there’s no blanket ban’ and that the military welcomes service by anyone who ‘can meet the standards without special accommodations,’ Esper implies that transgender inclusion would amount to an accommodation from equal standards. But the truth is that those standards—that you must serve in your birth gender—expressly target transgender people to ensure they cannot serve. What the defenders of the transgender ban are effectively saying is that everyone needs to meet the standard, and the standard is ‘don’t be transgender.’  

“Additionally, in claiming that the military ‘look[s] at each individual as they come in’ and ‘can offer waivers on a case-by-case basis,’ Esper implies transgender people may be granted exemption from rules that were written expressly to exclude them. Yet the Palm Center is not aware of a single waiver being granted for transgender service, and equally important, the possibility of granting an exception does not change the fact that the policy itself is discriminatory and stamps transgender people as presumptively unfit.”