White House Gives Mattis 6 Months to Prepare to Fully Implement Transgender Military Ban

The new policy will allow Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to consider a transgender service member’s “deployability” in deciding whether to oust them from the military.
PHOTO: MANUEL BALCE CENETA/ASSOCIATED PRESS

The White House is expected to send guidance to the Pentagon in coming days on how to implement a new administration ban on transgender people in the military, issuing a policy that will allow Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to consider a service member’s ability to deploy in deciding whether to kick them out of the military.

The White House memo also directs the Pentagon to deny admittance to transgender individuals and to stop spending on medical treatment regimens for those currently serving, according to U.S. officials familiar with the document.

The 2½-page memo gives Mr. Mattis six months to prepare to fully implement the new ban, according to these officials.

Mr. Mattis under the new policy is expected to consider “deployability”—the ability to serve in a war zone, participate in exercises or live for months on a ship—as the primary legal means to decide whether to separate service members from the military, the officials said.

The policy was announced by President Donald Trump in a series of tweets on July 26, which effectively reinstated a ban on open transgender service that had been lifted the year before, under former President Barack Obama, in a move that also provided for military medical care for the condition known as gender dysphoria.

Gender dysphoria is a condition that many professional associations have said requires medical treatment. For instance, gender dysphoria is recognized by the American Psychiatric Association as a medical issue. When diagnosed by a medical professional, transition therapy and reassignment surgery is considered by some insurers and states as a medically necessary treatment.

Employing the criteria of deployability to remove service members is bound to be greeted with deep opposition.

“Transgender people are just as deployable as other service members,” said Sue Fulton, the former president of Sparta, a military organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people that advocates for open service. “Other service members may undergo procedures when they are at home base, just as other service members schedule shoulder surgery or gall bladder surgery.”

Ms. Fulton said there are no “ongoing treatments” for transgender service members that would render them nondeployable. “Thus there’s no difference between the deployability of transgender service members” and others, she said.

Pentagon officials have been awaiting policy guidance from the White House since Mr. Trump’s July tweets. The move by Mr. Obama was among a series of steps toward opening the military to larger segments of the U.S. population. Other steps included rescinding the “don’t ask, don’t tell” prohibition against gays serving openly and opening most combat jobs to women.

In moving to end the transgender ban, however, the Obama administration left some ambiguity. While currently serving transgender personnel were allowed to immediately begin to serve openly, the change set July 1, 2017, as the start of new enlistments by openly transgender people.

Confronted with the enlistment deadline, Mr. Trump agreed over the summer with conservative lawmakers who wanted to backtrack on the policy.

“The United States government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military,” Mr. Trump said in the July tweets.

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SOURCE: Wall Street Journal, Gordon Lubold