SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center, released the following statement after the Pentagon last week issued new guidance detailing and justifying its ban on transgender service members:
“Donald Trump’s continued attacks on transgender Americans who are putting their lives on the line for this country illustrate a consistent pattern of a commander in chief increasingly isolated from his own military. Instead of honoring and supporting our troops, he is targeting them for discriminatory treatment, just as he has reportedly denigrated military members over many years. The guidance issued last week doubles down on a ban that deprives the military of qualified personnel, and which military leaders and scholars have repeatedly indicated has no credible rationale.”
The Pentagon’s new Instruction, entitled, “Military Service by Transgender Persons and Persons With Gender Dysphoria,” dated September 4, replaces a temporary directive that reinstated the ban under President Trump last year. A new 40-page handbook, which accompanied the Instruction, outlines for commanders how the ban is supposed to work and attempts to justify why transgender troops should be banned on the basis of questionable assertions. It claims, for instance, that “special accommodations for medical conditions requiring sustained medical intervention” would threaten deployability, readiness, and lethality, even though a panel of military professors debunked the Pentagon’s misleading claim that equal treatment for transgender troops is “special” treatment, writing, “There [we]re no ‘special accommodations’ provided to individuals with gender dysphoria” in the inclusive policy that was put into effect in 2016.
The recommitment to the transgender ban comes at a time when observers have noted a growing gap between President Trump and the military community he leads as commander in chief. An explosive Atlantic article quoting high-level Trump officials reported that the president belittled service members as “losers” for volunteering to serve. Military leaders have rebelled against the president’s use of troops against peaceful American protestors and his granting of clemency for war criminals. And there is much daylight between the president and the top uniformed personnel on the transgender ban itself. Gen. Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified that there were “zero reports” of problems with the inclusive policy for transgender troops that was in effect for nearly three years, an assertion echoed by all the service chiefs. And a panel of former military Surgeons General concluded in a major report that Trump’s rationale for reinstating the transgender ban is not grounded in evidence.