WASHINGTON, D.C., April 12, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — More than a year after announcing the policy change, the Trump administration on Friday finally began enforcing its ban on gender dysphoria in the U.S. military.
Finalized late last March in consultation with former defense secretary James Mattis and former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, the policy disqualifies from service “transgender persons with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria,” specifically those who “may require substantial medical treatment, including medications and surgery,” except in “certain limited circumstances.”
Already serving members (who have been estimated to total anywhere from 1,320 to 6,630) may stay but will be treated as members of their biological sex rather than their “gender identity” and held to the dress and grooming standards of the former. Current medical treatment will continue for current members already diagnosed with gender dysphoria, but new transition procedures will not be offered.
Opponents immediately sued, leading four separate courts to issue temporary injunctions against enforcing the ban. In January, a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated an injunction by District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, followed by the U.S. Supreme Court staying two others. U.S. District Judge George Russell III ruled in early March that he was “bound by the Supreme Court’s decision” to lift another, and a D.C. Circuit panel sided with the Trump administration and dissolved the final injunction in late March.
The Pentagon disputes the characterization of the new policy as a “ban,” instead framing it as an elimination of “special accommodations that were provided to persons with gender dysphoria but not to others.”
“Just over 70 percent of prime military-age Americans cannot meet the military's standards,” it explained, and “anyone who meets military standards without special accommodations can and should be able to serve.” But gender dysphoria is a “recognized medical condition” that “causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, and other important areas of functioning.”
Failed 2016 presidential nominee Hillary Clinton was among those denouncing the new policy this week, declaring it an “abhorrent” move that must be reversed “as soon as we can”:
The administration's ban on transgender servicemembers begins today. It is abhorrent. Every American should be able to serve their country, and I can't believe we're still debating that in 2019. We have to reverse this as soon as we can.
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) April 12, 2019
In defense of the policy, Heritage Foundation defense expert and retired lieutenant general Tom Spoehr writes that “exhaustive Defense Department clinical and U.S. survey data confirms that individuals with gender dysphoria attempt suicide at rates between eight and 10 times the average” and “severe anxiety again at between eight and nine times the rate of individuals without” and that “there is no evidence that medical treatment, including gender-reassignment surgery, can remedy those challenges.”
“Stress, anxiety, and suicide are already existential military problems. Indeed, the suicide rate for active-duty military members has been slowly rising over the past couple of decades,” he explains. “It would, therefore, be reckless and ill-advised to allow individuals demonstrably at a higher risk of suicide and anxiety to join the military and be subject to the increased stresses of military duty — both for the readiness of their units and for the safety of the individual.”
While every judicial injunction against implementing the policy is gone, the underlying legal challenges remain unresolved. “All four cases are proceeding,” National Center for Lesbian Rights legal director Shannon Minter declared after the third injunction was lifted last month. “Just because an injunction is lifted, doesn’t mean [the] case is over.”