WASHINGTON, D.C., May 12, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Two months after the release of a report by former Clinton administration Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders recommending the U.S. military lift its longstanding ban on transgender service members, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says the Pentagon is open to doing just that.
“Every qualified American who wants to serve our country should have an opportunity if they fit the qualifications and can do it,” Hagel told ABC News in an interview Sunday.
“This is an area that we – we've – we've not defined enough.”
Current military code bars those who identify as “transgendered” from service on the grounds that they are mentally ill. The American Psychiatric Association classifies gender dysphoria – defined as “a marked incongruence between one’s experienced/expressed gender and assigned gender” – as a mental illness, and sufferers show dramatically increased levels of suicidal ideation, depression, substance abuse and risky sexual behaviors.
Members of the military who express confusion about their gender are generally given a medical discharge immediately, as the condition presents a range of logistical problems when it comes to housing, washroom access, medical care and troop morale.
While Hagel admitted to ABC News that the integration of openly transgender troops would be “complicated,” he said the current policy should be “continually” reviewed. “I'm open to that, by the way,” he said.
Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, told LifeSiteNews she was not surprised by Hagel’s remarks, even coming on the heels of a recent statement by Pentagon spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen indicating the military has “no plans” to lift the ban.
“We predicted it,” Donnelly told LifeSiteNews. “When the law known as ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ … was repealed, it ushered in a new policy: What we usually call LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] law, which means regulations will be made to implement the new policy.”
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Donnelly highlighted the timing of Hagel’s remarks to ABC, noting that they were made just as the Obama administration is ramping up for its yearly celebration of “LGBT Equality Month” in June. She predicted that if Obama does plan to overturn the ban on transgender soldiers, he may choose that month to do it.
Transgender activists have been pushing to serve openly since the military abandoned its “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy regarding homosexuality in 2011. The issue has received increased national media attention since Pfc. Bradley Manning – who is currently serving a 35-year sentence at Ft. Leavenworth military prison for leaking classified documents – announced his desire to live as a female and demanded the military pay for his sex change operation. (The military refused.)
Recently, controversial former Clinton administration Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders joined with the Palm Center, a transgender-activism think tank, to release a report recommending President Barack Obama overturn the ban and begin funding sex change operations and hormone treatments for soldiers immediately. “There is no compelling medical reason for the ban,” stated the report’s authors, who said the ban was an “expensive, damaging and unfair barrier to health care access for the approximately 15,450 transgender personnel” they estimate are presently serving in the military.
Outspoken liberal activist Sandra Fluke, who rose to fame by demanding taxpayers foot the bill for women’s birth control, has echoed that sentiment, telling an audience at California’s Claremont McKenna College, “We still don’t let trans-folk join the military. That needs to change.” Fluke has also argued in favor of forcing private insurers to cover sex-change procedures.
Donnelly slammed Elders’ report, saying, “This was not a study, it was a polemic promoting the idea [of transgender military service]. Just because it comes from an academic setting doesn’t make it a study,” she said.
Donnelly told LifeSiteNews that a repeal on the ban would negatively impact the vast majority of soldiers. “This is an administrative regulation that the president, should he decide to repeal it, would have serious consequences,” Donnelly said. “Even Secretary Hagel has said that the military institution is different than the civilian world. Living situations are very different; issues of privacy are very important, especially in deployed situations in tight quarters. So it’s a matter of morale, and morale is important to good order, good discipline and the like.”
Donnelly pointed to cases like Bradley Manning’s, warning that transgender soldiers are likely to demand costly sex-change operations and hormone therapies that might not only cost taxpayers millions, but could take soldiers out of commission during their recovery, thereby reducing troop readiness.
“When you say, ‘this is going to be the policy from here on in,’ without even beginning to estimate what costs would be, you really are inviting something that does not make sense for the military,” Donnelly said.
Donnelly speculated that the prospect of “free” sex-change operations might even motivate increasing numbers of transgender people to join the military, not out of a desire to serve their country, but to take advantage of an opportunity to obtain a costly elective procedure that few private insurers cover.
Donnelly said that should Obama repeal the ban, it would take an act of Congress to reinstate it. However, she added, it is likely political pressure from transgender activists would make lawmakers reluctant to do so.