Internal Pentagon documents contradict its report that recommends banning most transgender people from serving in the U.S. military, according to a new 56-page report released by the Palm Center, a pro-LGBT think tank.
The authors, three former military surgeons general and three pro-LGBT scholars, say transgender troops are no less deployable than their cisgender counterparts despite the assertion otherwise in the Trump Defense Department’s report last month.
“Out of 994 service members diagnosed with gender dysphoria in FY2016 and the first half of 2017, 393 (40 percent) deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation New Dawn,” the new report says.
“Exactly one individual deploying with a diagnosis of gender dysphoria was unable to complete the deployment for mental health reasons since policy protecting transgender personnel from arbitrary dismissal was established in June 2016.”
Defense Secretary James Mattis defended his panel and the Pentagon’s findings on Thursday during a hearing with the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“My responsibility is to give the best advice I can for making a lethal force,” Mattis said.
The Hill added:
Last month, President Trump signed a memo banning most transgender people from serving in the military “except under certain limited circumstances.” The memo gave Mattis and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who oversees the Coast Guard, “authority to implement any appropriate policies concerning military service by transgender individuals.”
No new policy can go into effect immediately, as courts have issued preliminary injunctions that require the Pentagon to continue allowing open service while lawsuits work their way through the court system.
Trump’s memo was signed in conjunction with the release of a report Mattis submitted to the president outlining his recommendations on how to handle transgender troops.
Among the issues raised in the Pentagon report was that the time it takes to receive gender-transition related treatment could make those troops unavailable to deploy.
“Although limited and incomplete because many transitioning service members either began treatment before the [open service] policy took effect or did not require sex reassignment surgery, currently available in-service data already show that, cumulatively, transition service members in the Army and Air Force have average 167 and 159 days of limited duty, respectively, over a one-year period,” the Pentagon report says.
However, the Palm Center report argues that data has nothing to do with deployability, adding that the Pentagon report left out Navy data because its policy does not automatically assign limited-duty status to service members undergoing gender transition.
“This data was not connected to deployment and did not demonstrate any failure to meet a deployment obligation,” the report says. “What it did demonstrate, however, is the arbitrary way in which separate standards for fitness, targeted specifically against transgender personnel, can make them appear less medically fit and less deployable than their peers.”
Trump’s Defense Department also argued that hormone therapy requires quarterly lab monitoring in the first year of treatment as recommended by the Endocrine Society.
However, the doctor who wrote the Endocrine Society’s guidelines also wrote the Pentagon a letter in 2015 that said “there is no reason to designate individuals as non-deployable after the commencement of hormone replacement therapy,” according to the Palm Center report.
The Pentagon report also says that “service members with gender dysphoria are eight times more likely to attempt suicide than service members as a whole (12% versus 1.5%).”
But the Palm Center said Trump’s Defense Department distorted its own data because that data actually refers to suicide contemplation, not suicide attempts. They added that the “eight times more likely” rate of suicide ideation among service members with gender dysphoria is not accurate because that data undercounts the rate across the military.
“When DoD used more sophisticated methods to determine rates of suicidality among service members not being treated for behavioral health problems, military researchers determined that 14 percent of service members have had suicidal thoughts at some time in their lives, 11 percent had suicidal thoughts at some point during their military careers, and 6 percent had suicidal thoughts during the past year,” the report says. “Suicide is a military problem. It is not a transgender problem.”