Just a few weeks after President Trump announced that the U.S. Military "will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity" — a reversal of the "pro-transgender" policy implemented by President Obama less than a year earlier — five transgender active duty service members filed a lawsuit against the president.
"After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military," Trump announced on July 26 in a series of tweets. "Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you."
On Wednesday, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders filed a lawsuit on behalf of five unnamed active duty service members from the Air Force, Army and Coast Guard against the reimposed ban. The attorneys of the five transgender service members, all using the pseudonym "Jane Doe," argue that the ban violates the constitutional rights of transgender individuals by denying them due process and equal protection.
“Nothing like this has ever happened before,” Shannon Minter, a transgender legal expert and NCLR’s legal director, told McClatchy. “This is not normal for a president to treat active service members this way. It’s unprecedented in the history of the military for a group to be embraced and included, and then purged.” ...
"These service members came out, relying on the (Pentagon’s) policy and now they have just been blindsided,” he said. “They are facing immediate choices about training, reenlistment, healthcare and their families. How are they supposed to make these choices given the drastic uncertainties now hanging over their heads?”
Though Minter describes Trump's policy as "unprecedented," Trump's "transgender ban" is actually a return to the long-standing policy of the military to exclude for psychological and medical reasons those with gender dysphoria. After the Obama administration's announcement of the new policy last July, the military stopped dismissing self-identified transgender service members. On October 1, 2016, the military began providing medical treatment for the condition, including treatment for "transitioning" to the opposite gender, which can include hormone treatment and sex reassignment surgery. Critics of the policy, like the Family Research Council, argued that the Obama administration implemented it "without any systematic study of the consequences."
The ban has not yet gone into effect, with military leadership still awaiting guidance from the administration on how to implement the new policy. The attorneys of the five service members are requesting that a federal court block changes to the current Obama-era policy.
While the legal battle has just begun, the long and heated debate over gender dysphoria continues. Though the Obama administration argued that allowing transgenders would have minimal impact, research overwhelmingly supports the premise that transgender individuals generally do require greater psychological and medical treatment:
Studies have consistently found severe psychological issues associated with gender dysphoria. A 2016 study found that among military veterans identifying as transgender," 90% have at least one mental health diagnosis, such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression, and nearly 50% had a hospitalization after a suicide attempt or suicidal thoughts." An extensive 2011 study by the Karolinska Institute found that sex reassignment surgery rather than helping transgender individuals, resulted in worse psychological issues down the road. The study found that ten years after surgery, their "suicide mortality rose almost 20-fold above the comparable nontransgender population."
Estimates of the numbers of active duty transgender service members vary widely, some as low as 1,320 with other estimates as high as over 10,000.