In testimony to Congress today, Defense Secretary James Mattis and Chairman Of The Joint Chiefs Of Staff General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr. came up short when questioned about continued attempts to ban transgender service members from the military.
Sen. Kristen Gillibrand asked Mattis and Dunford to name the medical professionals they allegedly consulted while drafting new guidelines that prohibit those with diagnosis of gender dysphoria, or requiring transition-related medication or surgery, from military service “except under certain limited circumstances.” (Like Trump’s previous ban, the new regulations have been blocked by a federal judge.)
Mattis was unable to cite those experts, claiming the issue was under litigation, but said he would “see what I can provide, or when I can provide it.” (Sources have claimed the new regulations weren’t actually drafted by Mattis, but rather by Vice President Mike Pence in conjunction with Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins and the Heritage Foundation’s Ryan T. Anderson.)
But Mattis testified that he convened a panel consisting of “combat veterans, chiefs of the services, and the undersecretaries,” as well as “transgender troops and commanders of transgender troops [and] civil and military medical experts who have provided care for transgenders, both in the military and outside.”
The report he issued, he said, was in the best efforts of increasingly the lethality of the country’s military. He added that more than 70% of 18-to-24-year-olds do not qualify to enlist in the U.S. Army, for any number of medical, legal, behavioral or intellectual reasons.
“And I would just say right now that we look at medical conditions,” Mattis continued. “If gender dysphoria has anxiety, or it has some kind of depression [as a symptom]; we don’t allow anyone in with that. I would have to make a special category that said you can have these disqualifying factors only if you’re transgender, and then we can bring you in. I think you understand why we have not chosen to do that.”
Gillibrand previously asked the heads of the Armed Forces—Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert Neller, and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson—if there were reports of problems with “cohesion, discipline, or morale” as a result of open transgender service.
All four confirmed they had not seen any such reports, a fact Gillibrand noted before putting the same question to Dunford.
After saying he “wouldn’t typically hear of individual cases of cohesion or discipline issues,” Chairman Dunford added, “For me, the issue with transgender [soldiers] has never been about cohesion or discipline, anyway. It was just about any individual, regardless of circumstances, being able to meet the physical and mental qualifications of being worldwide deployable.”
“So, if an individual is serving without accommodation, then I don’t expect I’d see discipline or cohesion issues in that unit,” he added.
Gillibrand then asked Dunford if he knew if the policy had created anxiety among transgender troops, and if he had met with any since the new rules were issued. When Dunford said he had not, she suggested he do so in order to become “more informed.”
“I’m very concerned about this report,” Gillibrand told Mattis, “because it says that there is, ’scientific uncertainty surrounding the efficacy of transition-related treatments for gender dysphoria.’ Yet the American medical, psychological, and psychiatric associations have all said the report misrepresents what is the scientific consensus when it comes to gender dysphoria and transition.”
She stated that, despite claims about transgender troops being a burden because of medical care or gender dysphoria, a study from the Palm Center found that, of the nearly 1,000 service members diagnosed with gender dysphoria in 2016 and the first half of 2017, 40% deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, or Operation New Dawn.
“Only one had an issue during that deployment,” Gillibrand added.
She suggested the Pentagon’s report didn’t seem to be based “on the department’s data or science, but rather ’potential risks’ that the authors cannot back up.”
“This seems to me to be the same uninformed and unfounded concerns that led to the opposition of repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” in training women into the military, [welcoming] African-Americans into the military,” she added, “and I think you need to do a lot more work on this topic to inform yourselves.”
Gillibrand’s questioning begins around the one hour, 11 minute mark in the following video.