Dems want Mattis to reveal experts behind Pentagon transgender policy

Dems want Mattis to reveal experts behind Pentagon transgender policy
© Greg Nash

Top defense committee Democrats are pressing Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisPentagon put in bind after Trump-Putin summit The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump eyes second Putin summit The Hill's Morning Report — Russia furor grips Washington MORE to reveal who sat on a panel of experts that helped draft the Pentagon’s controversial transgender policy.

“We were surprised and disappointed by the recommendations contained in that memorandum. In our view, these recommendations contradict previous findings from the Department of Defense (DOD) and the professional medical community,” Sen. Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedSenate Dems press for info on any deals from Trump-Putin meeting Senate Dems tell Trump: Don't meet with Putin one-on-one Schumer: Trump should cancel meeting with Putin MORE (R.I.) and Rep. Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam Smith Top Dem: Hard to see Trump-Putin summit 'as anything other than treason' Ocasio-Cortez draws ire from Democrats: ‘Meteors fizz out’ Overnight Defense: Washington reeling from Trump, Putin press conference MORE (Wash.), the ranking members of the Senate and House Armed Services committees, respectively, wrote in a letter.

Late last month, the Pentagon released a three-page memo and 44-page report Mattis submitted to President TrumpDonald John TrumpSchiff: Surveillance warrant docs show that Nunes memo 'misrepresented and distorted these applications' Chicago detention facility under investigation following allegations of abuse of migrant children Ex-Trump aide: Surveillance warrants are 'complete ignorance' and 'insanity' MORE outlining his recommendations on how to handle transgender troops.

Drafted by an unnamed panel of experts of senior uniformed and civilian Defense Department leaders, the memo makes recommendations that would prevent the enlistment of transgender people diagnosed with gender dysphoria or those who have already undergone or begun a gender transition.

Troops already diagnosed with gender dysphoria could stay in the military if they do not seek treatment, such as hormone therapy or gender reassignment surgery.

The accompanying report argues that people diagnosed with gender dysphoria suffer from high rates of suicide, anxiety, depression and substance abuse and that treatment such as hormone therapy and surgery has not proven effective.

Trump then signed his own memo banning most transgender people from serving in the military “except under certain limited circumstances."

The Democrats “feel it imperative that we explore the factual bases behind your recommendations,” as the memo gives Mattis the power to implement appropriate policies concerning military service by transgender individuals. The letter was also signed by Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump and Congress at odds over Russia Trump: ‘Dems have a death wish’ Election Countdown: Senate, House Dems build cash advantage | 2020 Dems slam Trump over Putin presser | Trump has M in war chest | Republican blasts parents for donating to rival | Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders to campaign in Kansas MORE (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Jackie SpeierKaren (Jackie) Lorraine Jacqueline SpeierDems demand answers on Pentagon not recognizing Pride Month Overnight Defense: VA pick breezes through confirmation hearing | House votes to move on defense bill negotiations | Senate bill would set 'stringent' oversight on North Korea talks Overnight Defense: Defense spending bill amendments target hot-button issues | Space Force already facing hurdles | Senators voice 'deep' concerns at using military lawyers on immigration cases MORE (D-Calif.).

“Although you state that the panel received input from civilian medical professionals, the recommendations appear to us to be inconsistent with what we have heard from the civilian medical community,” the lawmakers write. 

“Numerous recognized experts, former military officials and Surgeons General, and organizations representing medical professionals have released statements criticizing the Report’s recommendations and the underlying scientific basis for these recommendations."

The report’s analysis of medical research has been harshly criticized as misrepresenting the findings or leaving out important context. The American Medical Association, the country’s largest medical organization, told Mattis in a letter that his recommendations “mischaracterized and rejected” evidence on treatment for gender dysphoria.

The lawmakers ask Mattis to name who was on the expert panel, who they consulted with and whether they consulted with any medical professionals with expertise in gender dysphoria. 

The Democrats also want examples of substantial risks associated with the enlisting and retention of transgender troops.

The Pentagon’s transgender policy is currently on hold after courts issued preliminary injunctions that require the department to continue allowing open-service while several lawsuits work their way through the court system.