A new study has determined the Pentagon's exclusionary policy regarding transgender personnel in the military is outdated, unethical and inconsistent with military standards after the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell."
The Palm Center, a think tank for public policy on issues of gender and sexuality, in collaboration with former U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders, released the study last week that contends "there is no compelling medical reason for the ban." Furthermore, the groundbreaking study claims reforming extant policy "is really a simple matter of updating references to outdated medical science and removing unnecessary barriers to enlistment and retention."
Approximately 15,450 service members — 8,800 active members and roughly 6,600 in reserves — as well as more than 134,000 veterans identify as transgender in the military. However, all these trained personnel are subject to discharge under current military code.
Army Reserve Capt. and Kuwait veteran Sage Fox experienced this process firsthand, after she began living as a woman and was promptly placed on inactive status, a step from discharge.
According to the Palm Center's report, "Medical regulations requiring the discharge of transgender personnel are inconsistent with how the military regulates all other medical and psychological conditions ... and transgender-related conditions appear to be the only gender-related conditions that require discharge irrespective of fitness for duty."
Additional findings concluded, from the report:
- There is no compelling medical rationale for banning transgender military service, and medical regulations requiring the discharge of all transgender personnel are inconsistent with how the military regulates medical and psychological conditions.
- Medical conditions related to transgender identity are the only gender-related conditions requiring discharge irrespective of fitness for duty.
- Eliminating the ban would advance numerous military interests, including enabling commanders to better care for their service members.
- Other military regulations have been updated to reflect the latest consensus of psychiatric experts on mental health issues, but while that consensus no longer classifies gender non-conformity as a mental illness, military regulations have not been amended to reflect the latest understanding of the scientific community about gender non-conformity.
- The U.S. military can look to the experiences and standards of at least 12 allied militaries that allow transgender service, as well as several inclusive U.S. federal agencies, as models in formulating administrative policy to address fitness testing, records and identification, uniforms, housing and privacy for transgender military service.
GLAAD President Kate Ellis lauded the commission's recommendations, saying in a statement, "Being transgender is not an indication of illness or weakness, but living in your own skin in the face of so much judgment and adversity is courageous and should be nurtured by our armed forces, not shunned."
Indeed, it is growing increasingly clear that gender identity should not have bearing when it comes to those Americans willing to die for their nation.
This report is the latest in a series of events representing what may be the beginning of a larger sea change in America regarding the transgender community. However, the White House so far has not commented on the military's current transgender policy, and Pentagon spokesman Navy Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen asserted there were no revisions planned at this time.