Mr. President, Just Do the Right Thing on Trans Policy in Military

By Elaine Donnelly | March 19, 2018 | 2:51pm EDT
Defense Secretary James Mattis (center) shakes hands with President Donald Trump (left), with Vice President Mike Pence standing behind them. (Screenshot)

In his presidential campaign, Donald Trump pledged to strengthen the armed forces and to end political correctness (PC) in the military.  The 2016 Republican National Platform provided unequivocal support: “We reject the use of the military as a platform for social experimentation … Military readiness should not be sacrificed on the altar of political correctness.”

Gender dysphoria is a psychological condition involving confusion about gender identity.  Until the waning days of President Obama’s administration, it had been on the list of physical and psychological medical conditions that disqualify a person for military service. 

Citing high costs of Obama’s policies and harmful impacts on morale, President Trump formalized his intent to change policy with an August 25, 2017, Presidential Memorandum

Trump directed Defense Secretary James Mattis to return to long-standing policies regarding persons who identify as transgender.  Trump also called for an end to funding for controversial surgeries that attempt to change gender identity, and a report on ways to address the status of transgender personnel serving since June 2016.

Six months later, Defense Secretary Mattis seems to have misplaced the memo.  According to and Fox News, Mattis recently presented to President Trump an undisclosed report, based on his own closed-door review, which was written by a panel of unidentified “experts,” which was chaired by a high-level Obama holdover with a record of favoring transgender causes. 

That Defense Department official, Anthony Kurta, instigated a “LGBT Pride” event in the Pentagon last June, without presidential authorization.  Kurta also helped to produce the deeply-flawed 2016 RAND Report, which consulted with LGBT activist groups in providing low-ball estimates of transgender medical costs.  (Obama’s Defense Department paid for the RAND report.)

Last month, Secretary Mattis reportedly recommended that persons who identify as transgender should be retained and recruited, if they are deployable overseas.  Some observers speculated that this was a way to handle the transgender issue indirectly, since Mattis’ undisclosed recommendations closely followed his announcement that servicemen and women who are non-deployable for more than twelve consecutive months will be discharged. 

If that is the plan, it is unworkable, unfaithful to President Trump’s intent, and too clever by half.

Obama-era transgender policies allow individuals to take three to twelve months off for “real life experience” (RLE) living as a person of the opposite sex.  More time can be taken off to cope with side-effects of powerful sex-change hormones, which wreak havoc with female physiology and weaken muscle strength in men.  (One Navy report warned of hormone side effects affecting the performance of aviators and divers.) 


Surgical procedures to alter physical characteristics and male/female body parts also require lengthy leave time for recovery – not counting periods of non-deployability for psychological counseling, especially when surgical procedures fail to solve underlying problems, including high risks of suicide. 

Transgender activists have no problem with any of this.  Their agenda is all about political correctness, not military readiness. 

Under an array of directives, instructions, memos, and training programs set forth to promote that agenda, commanders are supposed to consult with a network of “Service Central Coordination Cells” (SCCCs).  These vaguely-defined panels were established to provide “expert” advice on thorny LGBT issues, such as what a commander should do when a “transman” announces he is pregnant, or military women refuse to share their private facilities with persons of the opposite biological sex. 

The same doctors who prescribe “medically necessary” treatments, together with remote Coordinating Cell advisors, likely would decide whether non-deployability rules apply to gender-transitioning personnel.

Secondly, Secretary Mattis’ new policy regarding non-deployables exempts pregnant women, and maternity leave before and after birth can stretch as long as two years.  LGBT attorneys are sure to ask federal courts – why shouldn’t transgenders be exempt from discharge as well?   

Late last year, four federal district judges, who have no constitutional power to run the military, ordered the Trump Administration to implement unprecedented transgender recruitment policies, starting on January 1, 2018.  The jurists applied a heightened “equal protection” standard, not the “rational basis” standard that courts historically have applied in similar cases. 

The first time a commander moves to discharge a transgender person for being non-deployable for more than a year, LGBT attorneys will file lawsuits before the same federal district judges who are running the military today.  Does anyone think that activist judges who are ignoring the Constitution already, and who see transgenders as a “protected class,” will not accept the attorneys’ specious argument? 

This is why Defense Secretary Mattis should have requested an immediate Department of Justice petition for a stay of lower court rulings, on constitutional grounds, directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Defense Department also should have protected presidential prerogatives by informing transgender applicants that litigation is pending, and all enlistment contracts issued under court orders are subject to change if the government prevails.  Conditional contracts would be prudent and fair, but there are no indications that Pentagon officials are using them.

Secretary Mattis’ undisclosed recommendations, if reported accurately, would do nothing about privacy violation issues in gender-separate private facilities, ethical or religious conflicts for medical personnel, or demoralizing transgender indoctrination programs that defy biological science.  Nor would the Secretary’s plans dismantle LGBT Pentagon events and power bases that demand extension of transgender treatments and even surgeries to vulnerable military dependent children

President Trump is scheduled to accept or reject the Defense Secretary’s recommendations by March 23.  Before deciding, the President deserves to hear all sides.  The Mattis report should be publicly disclosed, and time should be allowed for independent analysis of facts that may be buried within.

President Trump has strong political support for his intent to end PC in the Pentagon, and to restore sound policies that strengthen mission readiness instead of detracting from it.  The Commander in Chief has the constitutional authority; the time has come to do the right thing.

Elaine Donnelly is President of the Center for Military Readiness, an independent, non-partisan public policy organization that reports on and analyzes military/social issues.


MRC Store