LGBTQ Advocacy Groups Fight to Defeat Trump’s Latest Trans Military Ban (Updated)

A Lambda Legal attorney called the memorandum "nothing more than a transparent ruse cobbled together with spittle and duct tape designed solely to mask discrimination."

[Photo: Protesters rally to oppose LGBTQ discrimination]
Trans troops intend to keep serving their country despite their government's latest attempt at anti-LGBTQ state-sanctioned discrimination. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

UPDATE, January 22, 2019, 9:38 a.m.: The Supreme Court ordered that the Trump administration should be allowed to enforce its trans military ban as the case proceeds through the court system. One nationwide injunction remains in place.

UPDATE, June 15, 2018, 4:38 p.m.: A federal court in Seattle on Friday denied the Trump administration from implementing its ban on transgender people serving in the U.S. military. “Yet again, the Trump Administration has tried to implement and expedite discrimination, and yet again, the court has said no,” said Lambda Legal Senior Attorney Peter Renn.

Advocates for LGBTQ equality will ask a federal judge on Tuesday to permanently block President Donald Trump’s transgender military ban.

Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN had already secured one of four injunctions that continue to prevent the discriminatory policy from taking effect. Following the White House’s Friday night memorandum instructing U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis to implement the ban, the two groups plan to go back to court to secure a permanent injunction.

Lambda Legal Senior Attorney Peter Renn called the memorandum “nothing more than a transparent ruse cobbled together with spittle and duct tape designed solely to mask discrimination.”

“A plan to implement an unconstitutional decree is an unconstitutional plan,” Renn said in a press release about Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN’s case, Karnoski v. Trump.

Trump’s latest memorandum replaces last August’s version. As Rewire.News reported at the time, Trump ordered Mattis to prohibit openly transgender people from entering the military, decide how to oust those who are already serving, and end the military’s coverage of transition-related health care.

The White House’s new memorandum claimed to rely on policies that Mattis privately recommended to Trump in February. The Washington Post at the time reported that Mattis was expected to stand behind trans troops.

But Mattis’ recommendations, now publicly available via the Department of Defense’s news publications, do the opposite.

With limited exceptions, Mattis advised barring trans military personnel “with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria”—the emotional distress that some, though not all, trans people experience from the discrepancy between their gender and the gender assigned at their birth, per the National Center for Transgender Equality’s definition.

Various forms of transition-related care—including counseling, hormone therapy, and gender-affirming surgeries—along with social and legal transition can be used to treat gender dysphoria, according to guidelines from the American Psychiatric Association, which “strongly opposes” the ban. But Mattis further applied the ban to trans service members “who require or have undergone gender transition,” regardless of whether they’ve experienced gender dysphoria.

Mattis ultimately widened the scope to all trans people. The defense secretary specified that those “without a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria” may serve only “in their biological sex.” As Chase Strangio, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney who has written for Rewire.News, tweeted, “there is no such thing as a coherent and fixed notion of ‘biological sex.'”

“That concept has emerged for the sole and exclusive purpose of excluding transgender people from legal protections,” Strangio said.

Mattis claims to have reached his recommendations in consultation with a “Panel of Experts” whose 44-page attached report also went to Trump. But the so-called experts merely parrot what ThinkProgress LGBTQ Editor Zack Ford called “anti-transgender junk science.”

“I can’t imagine a single trans-affirming practitioner or researcher (i.e. anyone in mainstream medicine) served on the panel of ‘experts,'” Ford tweeted.

Indeed, Slate‘s Mark Joseph Stern reported, and Ford confirmed, that Vice President Mike Pence drafted the report along with anti-trans activist Ryan Anderson and anti-LGBTQ hate group leader Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.

“Mattis actually supports open transgender service, but he was effectively overruled by Pence, and chose not to spend his limited political capital further defending trans troops,” Stern wrote.

Yet, Mattis denigrated a widely recognized 2016 RAND Corporation report that upheld trans service members’ contribution to military readiness and determined “the costs of gender transition-related health care treatment are relatively low”—in fact, a fraction of what the military spends annually on erectile dysfunction medication.

The RAND report estimated that there are between 1,320 and 6,630 trans military personnel serving “in the active component” of the U.S. armed services. Mattis’ panel placed the number of trans service members at 8,980 people and didn’t appear to specify active duty.

Mattis and Pence echoed Trump’s bald lies about trans service members’ force readiness and health-care costs. But they aren’t the first Trump allies to do so. Rep. Vicky Hartzler (MO), an increasingly vocal anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ congressional Republican who celebrated the latest ban, reportedly “went around Mattis to engage the White House” last year after falsely claiming trans health care could cost the military $1.35 billion over the next decade.

Journalist Katelyn Burns, a Rewire.News contributor, pointed out the report’s contradictory claims that transition-related care doesn’t resolve gender dysphoria but that postponing such care could increase gender dysphoria.

As Burns reported for them., trans troops intend to keep serving their country despite their government’s latest attempt at anti-LGBTQ state-sanctioned discrimination.

“Tomorrow morning when everyone gets up, they’re going to put their boots on just the same as they did before and continue to do the job that they are called to do,” Navy Lt. Cmdr. Blake Dremann, a trans man and president of the LGBTQ military group SPART*A, told Burns.