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Trump issues broad ban on transgender troops from serving in military

The White House said retaining troops with a history or diagnosis of “gender dysphoria” presents considerable risk to military effectiveness and lethality.

world Updated: Mar 24, 2018 22:05 IST
Hindustan Times, Washington
Donald Trump,Transgender troops,US transgender people
A protester displays a placard during a demonstration against US President Donald Trump, in front of the US Army career centre in Times Square, New York. (AFP File Photo)

US President Donald Trump on Friday partially reversed his earlier order and allowed serving military personnel who identify them as transgender to continue, but banned most of them for future recruitment.

The White House said in a late evening statement that Trump had “rescinded his previous memorandum on transgender service in the military” to allow defence secretary James Mattis to implement a new policy developed on basis of advice from experts that “the accession or retention of individuals with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria — those who may require substantial medical treatment, including through medical drugs or surgery — presents considerable risk to military effectiveness and lethality”.

Mattis, in a February memo had recommended a general ban on transgender people with “a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria (a conflict between a person’s physical or assigned gender and the gender with which he/she/they identify).

They could still enlist, though, if they were “stable for 36 consecutive months in their biological sex prior to accession”, which is, in their birth gender. Also exempted were transgender people without a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria.

However, those already in service could continue as long as they did not require a change of gender and were found fit to deploy fulfilling conditions applicable to all. Also exempted were serving members diagnosed with gender dysphoria after the Obama-era regulation was announcement and before the new order went into effect.

Mattis had based his recommendation on the necessity for “military lethality and readiness necessary to ensure American citizens enjoy their personal freedoms to the fullest extent” and asked Trump to revoke his earlier memo.

“I hereby revoke my memorandum of August 25, 2017, ‘Military Service by Transgender Individuals’, Trump said in a memorandum on Friday, adding that Mattis and homeland security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen — who overseas US coastguards — “may exercise their authority to implement any appropriate policies concerning military service by transgender individuals”.

There are about 6,000 to 15,000 transgender people in the US military, according to varying estimates.

The Obama administration in 2016 opened the military to transgender people, revoking a decades-long ban. This was in continuation of Obama’s decision in 2011 to end a policy barring openly gay and lesbian people from serving.

The change in the policy on transgender people had followed a study by the RAND National Defence Research Institute that concluded there would not be any significant impact on cost or lethality.

The new Obama policy on transgender people was to go into effect in 2017, but Mattis had ordered it be delayed for six month to evaluate more fully its impact on “readiness and lethality”.

While the review was on, Trump overturned the Obama-era regulation in a combination of tweets and memorandums and reinstated the long-standing pre-existing ban. But he allowed the Pentagon to take the final decision based on the study.

The White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Friday said the president had “rescinded his previous memorandum on transgender service in the military in order to allow secretary Mattis to implement a new policy developed through extensive study by senior uniformed and civilian leaders, including combat veterans. The experts’ study sets forth a policy to enhance our military’s readiness, lethality, and effectiveness.”

India is among a group of countries that doesn’t allow openly gay and lesbians people to serve in the military.

First Published: Mar 24, 2018 10:36 IST