Metro Weekly

Coast Guard won’t bar transgender service members unless explicit ban moves forward

Coast Guard Commandant estimates at least 17 service members, including a member of his personal staff, are transgender

Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Paul Zukunft – Photo: U.S. Department of Defense.

The Coast Guard will continue to allow transgender military members to serve unless an explicit policy bars them from service.

Appearing at a House Appropriations Homeland Security subcommittee hearing on Tuesday, Commandant Admiral Paul Zukunft was questioned by U.S. Rep. David Price (D-N.C.) about the Coast Guard’s position on the ability of transgender people to serve openly.

In response, Zukunft said that senior officials from all five branches of the armed services continue to discuss how best to deal with transgender troops, reports Politico.

By his count, Zukunft estimates that at least 17 of the 40,000 active-dutyCoast Guard members would be considered transgender or to have “transitioned.” Zukunft also noted that one transgender individual is part of his personal staff.

“We are certainly committed to their continued service in the United States Coast Guard,” he told congressional lawmakers. “We will make sure that there is a one policy for all service members.”

“Seems to me this is an invented problem and a waste of time and dollars and military resources by targeting these dedicated service members who’ve proved their fitness and their ability to serve,” Price replied to Zukunft.

Transgender individuals who were already enlisted have been allowed to serve openly since the Obama administration lifted prohibitions in July 2016. New and prospective recruits who are openly transgender have only been allowed to serve since January, when a federal circuit judge refused to grant a Trump administration request for an injunction to delay transgender individuals from enlisting.

President Trump has previously pushed for a categorical ban to prevent all transgender individuals from serving. A revised policy, put forth by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and announced by the White House last month, bars most transgender people from serving, but contains a few exceptions for people who have not yet undergone a gender transition and who have not been diagnosed with gender dysphoria.

But the Pentagon and White House have experienced pushback from the courts. Most recently, a judge in Washington State kept in place a temporary injunction she had issued to block the Trump administration from moving forward with the policy until the constitutionality of the transgender ban can be decided in court.

Opponents of the ban — even with the exemptions for certain service members who have not transitioned — have claimed that it violates transgender people’s civil rights, does not promote military readineess, and is based on a faulty understanding of science. The American Medical Association recently called out Mattis, saying he “mischaracterized and rejected” the science surrounding gender dysphoria in order to justify the ban.

Given the resistance the ban has met in the courts, it remains unclear whether any policy explicitly barring transgender troops from serving will survive judicial scrutiny. Until then, at least in the Coast Guard, it appears that transgender service members are safe for the time being. 

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at

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