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Posted on Mar 20, 2018 Print this Article

Mr. President, Just Do the Right Thing on Military Transgender Policy

Where Does Defense Secretary Mattis Stand?

In his presidential campaign, Donald J. Trump pledged to strengthen the armed forces and to end political correctness (PC) in the military.  The 2016 Republican National Platform provided unequivocal support: “We reject the use of the military as a platform for social experimentation . . . Military readiness should not be sacrificed on the altar of political correctness.” 

Gender dysphoria is a psychological condition involving confusion about gender identity.  Until the waning days of President Obama’s administration, it had been on the list of physical and psychological medical conditions that disqualify a person for military service. 

Citing high costs of Obama’s policies and harmful impacts on morale, President Trump formalized his intent to change policy with an August 25, 2017, Presidential Memorandum

Trump directed Defense Secretary James Mattis to return to long-standing policies regarding persons who identify as transgender.  Trump also called for an end to funding for controversial surgeries that attempt to change gender identity, and a report on ways to address the status of transgender personnel serving since June 2016.

Six months later, Defense Secretary Mattis seems to have misplaced the memo.  According to news reports, Mattis recently presented to President Trump an undisclosed report, based on his own closed-door review, which was written by a panel of unidentified “experts,” which was chaired by a high-level Obama holdover with a record of favoring transgender causes. 

That Defense Department official, Anthony Kurta, instigated an “LGBT Pride” event in the Pentagon last June, without presidential authorization.  Kurta also helped to produce the deeply-flawed 2016 RAND Report, which consulted with LGBT activist groups in providing low-ball estimates of transgender medical costs.  

Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) discredited RAND’s methodology, estimating that the actual cost of “gender-reassignment” surgeries alone would be about $1.3 billion over ten years  (Obama’s Defense Department paid for the RAND report.)

Last month, Secretary Mattis reportedly recommended that persons who identify as transgender should be retained and recruited, if they are deployable overseas.  Some observers speculated that this was a way to handle the transgender issue indirectly, since Mattis’ undisclosed recommendations closely followed his announcement that servicemen and women who are non-deployable for more than twelve consecutive months will be discharged. 

If that is the plan, it is unworkable, unfaithful to President Trump’s intent, and too clever by half.

Time Off for Transgender Treatments

Obama-era transgender policies allow individuals to take three to twelve months off for what is called “real life experience” (RLE) living as a person of the opposite sex.  More time can be taken off to cope with side-effects of powerful sex-change hormones, which wreak havoc with female physiology and weaken muscle strength in men.  (One Navy report warned of hormone side effects affecting the performance of aviators and divers.) 

Surgical procedures to alter physical characteristics and male/female body parts also require lengthy leave time for recovery – not counting periods of non-deployability for psychological counseling, especially when surgical procedures fail to solve underlying problems, including high risks of suicide. 

Transgender activists have no problem with any of this.  Their agenda is all about political correctness, not military readiness.

Starting in June 2016, the Obama Administration issued an array of at least fifteen directives, instructions, memoranda, handbooks, toolkits, and obligatory slide presentation training programs, all of which outline mandatory procedures for accommodating transgenders in the military.  The Center for Military Readiness analyzed these documents in July 2017:

An official Transgender Implementation Handbook presents sometimes-bizarre scenarios to train commanders in the protocols of dealing with complex psychological issues, such as what a commander should do when a “transman” announces he is pregnant, or military women refuse to share their private facilities with persons of the opposite biological sex.

A Diversity & Inclusion Roadmap, outrageously issued three days after the Trump Inauguration, established seven different Diversity Councils, Working Groups, and Boards for the Navy and Marine Corps alone, all of them empowered to enforce “diversity” mandates with “formal assessments” that imply career penalties for non-compliance.

Who Will Decide?

Several of the instruction manuals direct commanders to consult with a network of “Service Central Coordination Cells” (SCCCs).  These vaguely-defined panels were established to provide “expert” advice on thorny LGBT issues, including medical options for treatment.  These arrangements politicize the Military Health System (MHS), since patients are not provided with full information on the risks of treatments and surgeries, which do not resolve underlying psychological problems.

The same doctors who prescribe “medically necessary” treatments, together with remote Coordinating Cell advisors and Pentagon “diversity” advocates, likely would find ways to circumvent non-deployability rules or decide whether they apply to gender-transitioning personnel.

Secondly, Secretary Mattis’ new policy regarding non-deployables exempts pregnant women, and maternity leave before and after childbirth can stretch as long as two years.  LGBT attorneys are sure to ask federal courts – why shouldn’t transgenders be exempt from discharge as well?   

Late last year, four federal district judges, who have no constitutional power to run the military, ordered the Trump Administration to implement unprecedented transgender recruitment policies, starting on January 1, 2018.  The jurists applied a heightened “equal protection” standard, not the “rational basis” standard that courts historically have applied in similar cases. 

The first time a commander moves to discharge a transgender person for being non-deployable for more than a year, LGBT attorneys will file lawsuits before the same federal district judges who are running the military today.  Does anyone think that activist judges who are ignoring the Constitution already, and who see transgenders as a “protected class,” will not accept the attorneys’ specious argument?

This is why Defense Secretary Mattis should have requested an immediate Department of Justice petition for a stay of lower court rulings, on constitutional grounds, directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Defense Department also should have protected presidential prerogatives by informing transgender applicants that litigation is pending, and all enlistment contracts issued under court orders are subject to change if the government prevails.  Conditional contracts would be prudent and fair, but there are no indications that Pentagon officials are using them.

The Cost of Politicizing Military Medicine

Military medicine exists as a combat readiness multiplier.  The Military Health System keeps the troops healthy so they can fight, or patches them up to get back in the fight.

In June 2016, then-Defense Secretary Ashton Carter changed the MHS mission by ordering all military commanders and medical personnel to embrace PC pseudo-science – the unsupported notion that gender identity is “assigned” at birth and can be “re-assigned” with superficial changes in appearance.

Biological science says otherwise.  Sex is identified at birth, not “assigned,” and gender-determining chromosomes in human DNA cannot be changed with powerful hormones or body-altering surgeries. 

Obama-era officials disregarded reality and politicized military medicine.  Directives ordered military doctors and nurses to approve, participate in, or perform controversial procedures that many consider unethical.  There is no way to avoid PC mandates, except to leave the service. 

Competent care for gender dysphoria requires truthful disclosure of all facts needed to make informed decisions.  Military guidebooks that CMR analyzed, however, do not inform commanders or potential patients that there are no long-term, objective medical studies proving that such treatments really can change a person’s gender or reduce rates of psychological problems and high risks of suicide.

Once a patient experiencing gender confusion is caught up in the pro-transition pipeline, there is no off-ramp or option to receive full information about the harmful consequences of therapies and surgeries that attempt to change gender.  The Defense Department’s social experiment with psychological problems is not compassionate; it is exploitive and needs to come to an end.

President Trump Can and Should End Harmful Consequences of Political Correctness in the Military

Secretary Mattis’ undisclosed recommendations, if reported accurately, would do nothing about privacy violation issues in gender-separate private facilities, ethical or religious conflicts for medical personnel, endless controversies about pronouns, or demoralizing transgender indoctrination programs that defy biological science. 

Nor would the Secretary’s plans dismantle LGBT Pentagon events and “diversity” power bases that will never be satisfied.  Well-funded transgender activist groups will continue to demand more, including funding for transgender treatments and even surgeries for vulnerable military dependent children

This article tells the sad story of Eric Peter Verbeeck, a Florida college-bound teenager who killed himself while transitioning to become a girl.  The 17-year-old, who was popular at school, had the full support of his family, ten months of hormone therapies, and weekly visits with a team of transgender “experts” at the University of Miami.  Eric appeared to be happy, but when left a note saying he would end his life by jumping off the top floor, no one saw the tragedy coming.  How is a military recruiter supposed to know whether a gender-confused applicant is "stable"for 18 months -- the time period specified in Obama-era regulations?

As Ryan Anderson, Ph.D. explained in his timely, ground-breaking book When Harry Became Sally – Responding to the Transgender Moment, suicide rates among persons suffering from gender dysphoria are 41% compared to 4.6% in the general population, and transgender treatments do not reduce these risks. 

Issues such as this must be treated with compassion, but the burden of dealing with serious psychological conditions should not be imposed on officers at Fort Hood who are trying to get their troops ready for combat operations.  The primary question must be asked repeatedly: How would any of this improve mission readiness and combat lethality?

President Trump is scheduled to accept or reject the Defense Secretary’s recommendations by March 23.  Before deciding, the President deserves to hear all sides.  The Mattis report should be publicly disclosed, and time should be allowed for independent analysis of facts that may be buried within.

The Commander in Chief has the constitutional authority to restore sound policies that strengthen mission readiness instead of detracting from it.  President Trump has strong political support for his intent to end PC in the Pentagon, and the time has come to do the right thing.

* * * * * *

A version of this article was posted by CNSNews:

For more information, see the compendium of recent articles posted elsewhere on this website:

What's Behind the Transgender Movement, and Where Is It Going?

The Center for Military Readiness is an independent public policy organization that reports on and analyzes military/social issues.  More information is available on the CMR website,
www.cmrlink.orgTo support CMR with a tax-deductible contribution, click here.  You can also support CMR by visiting, liking, and sharing the CMR Facebook page or following CMR on  Twitter: @militaryready.

Posted on Mar 20, 2018 Print this Article