There’s absolutely no medical reason to keep transgender individuals from serving in the military, the CEO of the American Medical Association said Wednesday, rebutting President Donald Trump’s claims that trans service members will leave the military facing “tremendous medical costs.”
“We believe there is no medically valid reason — including a diagnosis of gender dysphoria — to exclude transgender individuals from military service,” James Madara wrote in a letter to Defense Secretary James Mattis. “Transgender individuals have served, and continue to serve, our country with honor, and we believe they should be allowed to do so.”
Trump first tried to ban trans people from serving in the military in July, when he suddenly tweeted that he wanted to revoke the Obama administration’s decision to allow trans individuals to serve openly.
A judge has since blocked Trump’s proposed ban from taking effect. In late March, however, the White House attempted to clarify that the ban would only apply to transgender troops who need significant medical treatment.
“Transgender persons with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria — individuals who the policies state may require substantial medical treatment, including medications and surgery — are disqualified from military service except under certain limited circumstances,” the memo proclaimed.
According to Madara, that memo “mischaracterized and rejected the wide body of peer-reviewed research on the effectiveness of transgender medical care.” Up to 6,620 transgender individuals already serve on active duty in the military, a 2016 report by the RAND Corporation found. But RAND estimated only a fraction of that number — between 29 and 129 — would annually seek gender-identity-related treatment which could temporarily disrupt deployments.
If the military paid for that treatment, it would cost the Defense Department somewhere between $2.4 and $8.4 million out of its total 2017 budget of $583 billion.
Jennifer Conti, a clinical assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Stanford University, who’s provided gender-confirming surgery for some trans service members, said she supported Madara’s message.
“This is normal, routine health care, just like any other type of medical or surgical care. Insinuating that it isn’t is a thinly veiled attempt to discriminate against an entire population of people, not to actually try to best serve the military,” Conti said. “Are you then banning people from serving because they’ve got high blood pressure and they’re more likely to have a heart attack and die in the field? No.”
Cover image: WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 03: U.S. President Donald Trump listens during a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House April 3, 2018 in Washington, DC. Marking their 100th anniversary of their post-World War I independence from Russia, Latvian President Raimonds Vejonis, Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid and Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite participated in the United States-Baltic Summit with U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)