Metro Weekly

Top medical organization: “No medically valid” reason to exclude transgender service members

AMA: Secretary Mattis "mischaracterized and rejected" science surrounding gender dysphoria in pushing for ban

Gen. James Mattis – Photo: U.S. Department of Defense.

The American Medical Association is hitting back at the Pentagon following its recommendations to ban most transgender individuals from serving in the U.S. military under the guise of promoting military readiness.

In a letter to Gen. Jim Mattis, the Secretary of Defense, the AMA said that it believes his recommendations to the White House “mischaracterized and rejected” scientific-baced evidence surrounding the treatment of gender dysphoria, reports The Hill.

“We believe there is no medically valid reason — including a diagnosis of gender dysphoria — to exclude transgender individuals from military service,” AMA CEO James Madara wrote in a letter to Mattis. “Transgender individuals have served, and continue to serve, our country with honor, and we believe they should be allowed to continue doing so.”

The AMA previously opined that there is “no medically valid reason” for a categorical ban on transgender service when President Obama’s administration was trying to lift the ban, and again after President Trump announced his intention to restore such a ban via Twitter last July.

Last month, the Pentagon released a three-page memo and 44-page report that it had submitted to President Trump on how the military should accommodate transgender service members. Trump then signed his own memo banning most transgender people from serving, “except under certain limited circumstances.”

In his memo to the White House, Mattis wrote that there is “substantial risk” in allowing people with gender dysphoria to serve, arguing that people who believe their biological sex conflicts with their gender identity have higher rates of suicide, anxiety, depression, and substance abuse — and that treatment such as hormone therapy and gender confirmation surgery is not effective.

But the AMA notes in its letter that such a reading of the most up-to-date medical information on gender dysphoria significantly distorts scientific findings or takes them out of context. For example, three of the studies cited in the report pointed to discrimination against transgender people as a root cause of higher rates of suicidal ideation among transgender people.

“We share the concerns recently expressed by former Surgeons General M. Joycelyn Elders and David Satcher that the Defense Department’s February 22, 2018, Memorandum for the President mischaracterized and rejected the wide body of peer-reviewed research on the effectiveness of transgender medical care,” Madara wrote to Mattis in his letter.

“This research, demonstrating that medical care for gender dysphoria is effective, was the rationale for the AMA’s adoption of policy by our House of Delegates in 2015, that there is no medically valid reason to exclude transgender individuals from military service.”

The AMA also defended a RAND Corporation study, commissioned by the Obama administration, which Mattis had criticized in his memo to Trump as containing “significant shortcomings.”

“We support the finding of the RAND study conducted for the Department of Defense on the impact of transgender individuals in the military that the financial cost is negligible and a rounding error in the defense budget,” Madara wrote. “It should not be used as a reason to deny patriotic Americans an opportunity to serve their country.”

LGBTQ advocates have vowed to block the implementation of any ban in the courts. In one of the lawsuits lodged against the ban out of Washington State, LGBTQ plaintiffs and their lawyers have asked a federal judge to permanently block the ban from taking effect. Plaintiffs in other cases out of Washington, D.C., Maryland, and California, are expected to employ a similar tactic, as well as legal rationale, for why the ban should not go forward.

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

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