Family Research Council

A transgender military is a weaker, compromised military

By Peter Sprigg Senior Fellow for Policy Studies


Peter Sprigg is Senior Fellow for Family Policy Studies at Family Research Council. This article appeared in The Hill on December 8, 2016.


Donald Trump’s election as president, and the reelection of a Republican House and Senate, have created an opportunity for America “to rebuild our military” — a pledge that Trump made during his campaign.

While increasing the number of ships, submarines, and aircraft will cost billions of dollars, there is one change that would not cost a cent — ending President Obama’s use of the military to engage in liberal social engineering.

At President Obama’s urging, the law against homosexual conduct in the military (colloquially referred to as “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”) was repealed by a lame duck Congress in 2010. However, the Obama administration’s latest effort to deploy the military in the sexual revolution was the June 30, 2016, announcement by Defense Secretary Ash Carter that “transgender Americans may serve openly” in the military.

Carter also announced that by July 1, 2017, “the military services will begin accessing transgender individuals.”

Congress did not address the issue this year in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which passed the House on Dec. 2 and should see Senate action soon. However, Congress and the new administration should reconsider this policy next year.

Previous policy had prohibited military service by those who identify as transgender.

An April 2010 Department of Defense (DoD) Instruction regarding “Medical Standards” listed a “change of sex” as a disqualifying physical condition. This regulation was justified by the concern “that transsexuals would require medical maintenance,” and that “complications which may stem from the hormone therapy” could cause service members “to lose excessive duty time and impair (the) ability to serve in all corners of the globe.”

Under the same DoD Instruction, one of the disqualifying “Learning, Psychiatric, and Behavioral” conditions was:

“Current or history of psychosexual conditions including but not limited to transsexualism … (and) transvestism.”

A recent review of the scientific literature by psychiatrists Lawrence Mayer and Paul McHugh notes that:

“Adults who have undergone sex-reassignment surgery continue to have a higher risk of experiencing poor mental health outcomes.”

In a reversal, the DoD has now issued an Instruction on “In-Service Transition for Transgender Service Members.” It requires the military to provide “all medically necessary care and treatment” to facilitate the “gender transition” of service members.

However, the document acknowledges that transgender status may constitute “a medical condition that may limit their performance of official duties,” and that it may render a service member “non-deployable.” It may even require a leave of absence — so that the transgender service member can have a “Real Life Experience” (RLE), living and working in the social role of the intended gender:

“In an off-duty status and away from the Service member’s place of duty.”

This change in policy might actually make the military a magnet for people seeking “gender reassignment” procedures at taxpayer expense.

The new policy does say that a new recruit who identifies as transgender must have “completed all medical treatment associated with (their) gender transition,” and have “been stable in the preferred gender for 18 months.” However, DoD also declares, “A blanket prohibition on gender transition during a Service member’s first term of service is not permissible.”

One journal article written to support transgender military service ironically highlights why such a change may threaten morale and readiness.

Author Allison Ross attempts to minimize the need for specialized health care by comparing hormone treatments with the use of oral contraceptives or insulin, and even by comparing gender-reassignment surgery with pregnancy and childbirth. Ross also compares “the average cost of a male-to-female sex-reassignment surgery” (estimated by Ross at $20,000) with the cost of surgery for Achilles tendonitis or lower-extremity fractures.

Women and diabetics may well resent these comparisons between their conditions and the elective surgeries and therapies undertaken by persons who identify as transgender.

Ross admits that transgender service members might not be able to perform in their assigned roles, but have to “occupy temporary, low-risk jobs that allow them to take time off for the required surgeries” — and she has the gall to assert that this “affects military readiness no differently than allowing non-transgender service members to receive medical care for injuries received in battle.”

At a gathering of veterans in October, Donald Trump was asked what he would do about “social engineering and political correctness” (including the transgender issue) in the military. Trump agreed that “some of the things they’re asking you to do and be politically correct about are ridiculous,” but said he would accept recommendations from military leaders (including “top enlisted people”) regarding specific policies.

Those leaders should advise the new Commander-in-Chief that their unique medical problems alone make transgender individuals ill-suited for military service.

The military regularly discharges service members who are not medically deployable. It would be unfair not to hold individuals who identify as transgender to the same standard.

Meet The Author
Peter Sprigg Senior Fellow for Policy Studies

Peter S. Sprigg is Senior Fellow for Policy Studies at the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C. Mr. Sprigg joined FRC in 2001, and his research and writing have addressed (Full Bio)

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