Retired officers slam latest Trump transgender ban as ‘troubling move backward’
More than 20 retired generals and admirals are opposing the latest iteration of President Trump’s ban on transgender people in the military in a new statement Tuesday.
“The administration’s announcement on the treatment of transgender service members is a troubling move backward,” the 26 officers wrote in their statement, obtained first by The Hill from the Palm Center, which researches issues of gender and sexuality.
“There is simply no reason to single out brave transgender Americans who can meet military standards and deny them the ability to serve.”
Tuesday’s statement was signed by many of the same retired officers who released a statement opposing the transgender ban in August, after Trump first tweeted about it.
Notable signatories include retired Vice Adm. Donald Arthur, former surgeon general of the Navy; retired Vice Adm. Kevin Green, former deputy chief of naval operations for operations, plans and policy; retired Lt. Gen. Arlen Jameson, former deputy commander in chief of U.S. Strategic Command; and retired Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy, the first Army women to achieve a three-star rank and a former Army deputy chief of staff for intelligence.
On Friday night, Trump issued a memo that bans most transgender people from serving in the military “except under certain limited circumstances.” The memo also gives Defense Secretary James Mattis and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who oversees the Coast Guard, “authority to implement any appropriate policies concerning military service by transgender individuals.”
In Mattis’s recommendation to Trump, released Friday in conjunction with the memo, he wrote there is “substantial risk” to allowing transgender service members. He recommended banning anyone diagnosed with gender dysphoria except under three circumstance: if they have not had gender dysphoria for 36 months, if they have been diagnosed after entering service but do not need to transition gender, or if they are currently serving troops who came out and are receiving treatment since the ban on their service was first lifted in 2016.
On Monday, Mattis said the military is “out to build the most lethal service,” but declined to comment further because of pending litigation against the policy.
The new policy cannot go into effect immediately, as courts have issued preliminary injunctions that require the Pentagon to continue adhering to the open-service policy while the lawsuits work their way through the court system.
In their statement Tuesday, the retired officers argue the new policy is similar to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which banned gays and lesbians from serving until Congress repealed it.
“Many of us personally experienced the belated removal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and faced firsthand how that mistaken policy set back our force and enabled discrimination against patriotic gay and lesbian Americans,” they said. “We learned a clear lesson: the singling out of one group of service members for unequal treatment harms military readiness, while inclusion supports it.”
Transgender troops who are able to serve under the new policy, they continued, would do so “under a false presumption of unsuitability,” not be able to receive needed medical care and will live in “constant fear” of being discharged.
“We should not return to the days of forcing men and women to hide in the shadows and serve their country without institutional support,” the officers said. “This deprives the military of trained and skilled service members, which harms readiness and morale.”
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