April 9, 2019

Military Policy Researchers Raise Alarms as Transgender Troops Face Expulsion

Palm Center Memo Explains How New Policy is a Ban; Experts Call it Return of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – The Pentagon plans to reinstate a ban on military service by transgender Americans this week, raising concerns by LGBTQ and national security researchers that politics is trumping both military readiness and equal treatment of service members. A new memo just released by the Palm Center concisely explains exactly how the Trump administration’s policy operates as a transgender ban. Only a small fraction of the thousands of transgender troops is protected by a “grandfather” clause, while the vast majority are subject to discharge if a need to transition, or a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, becomes known. Even the grandfather clause is provisional, as the Pentagon has stated it may be revoked.

“Fully 100% of transgender troops are threatened and stigmatized by this ban,” said Palm Center’s director, Aaron Belkin. “The Pentagon has breached the trust of our service members and our country, relying on deceptive claims that its policy is not actually a ban and that it is needed to preserve readiness. In reality, as senior military leaders have said, this ban will harm readiness.” Experts view the policy as a “don’t ask, don’t tell” for transgender troops, referring to the obsolete policy that banned service by gays and lesbians if their orientation became known—something its defenders also insisted was not a gay ban.

Palm’s new policy memo, “The Making of a Ban: How DTM-19-004 Works to Push Transgender People Out of Military Service,” reads, in part: “When DoD disqualifies all applicants with a history of gender dysphoria (unless they renounce transgender identity for years) and all applicants who have ever received treatment for gender dysphoria, that is a ban. When DoD tells non-grandfathered transgender personnel—about 8,000 people now, according to DoD’s own estimate, not even counting those in the future—that coming forward can lead to separation, that is a ban. DTM-19-004 depends on directly banning the transgender people who are immediately identifiable and threatening the rest, forcing them to remain silent and invisible. It is ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ all over again.”

All five service chiefs have told Congress they experienced no problems with unit cohesion during the first two years of open transgender service, and senior and retired medical and military figures, including former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mike Mullen, have said inclusive service promotes readiness.

Two recent polls, by Quinnipiac and Dalia Research, found that 70% of respondents favor allowing transgender Americans to serve in the military.

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