Metro Weekly

American Medical Association calls Trump’s transgender troop ban medically “deficient”

AMA takes issue with classification of transgender status as a type of "deficiency" to be fixed

Photo: Staff Sgt. Teddy Wade, U.S. Army, via Wikimedia.

The American Medical Association is blasting the Trump administration’s ban on transgender service members, arguing that the administration’s use of the word “deficiency” to describe transgenderism is unfair and not based in science.

The AMA has taken issue with the policy, which went into effect on Friday, and specifically its use of the word “deficiency” to describe the status of transgender people who wish to transition from their assigned sex at birth — but are prohibited from doing so under the recently implemented policy.

The AMA also objects to the classification of the need to transition to another gender as one of several “administratively disqualifying conditions” that include those the Pentagon has labeled as “congenital or developmental defects,” reports the Associated Press.

“The only thing deficient is any medical science behind this decision,” AMA President Barbara McAneny told the AP.

For its part, the Defense Department claims its use of the word “deficiencies” is military jargon for when an individual fails to meet standards to maintain a lethal force, according to Lt. Col. Carla Gleason, a department spokeswoman. It is not intended to be a reference to gender dysphoria that transgender individuals may experience.

Under the new policy, a service member can be discharged if they have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria or if he or she is “unable or unwilling to adhere to all applicable standards, including the standards associated with his or her biological sex, or seeks transition to another gender.”

But the policy also says that those individuals founding not to have met those standards cannot be discharged until after they have been “formally counseled on his or her failure to adhere to such standards” and been given an opportunity to correct their behavior.

“They can dress it up in whatever words they want, but when you carefully look at this, it’s total disrespect for these human beings by saying a core piece of them is not acceptable,” former acting U.S. Army Surgeon Gen. Gale Pollock said.

Pollock signed a statement with three former U.S. surgeons general and two former military surgeons general, saying they are “troubled by the Defense Department’s characterization of the need to undergo gender transition as a ‘deficiency,’ and by the addition of gender dysphoria to official lists of ‘congenital or developmental defects’ that include bed-wetting and ‘disturbances of perception, thinking, emotional control, or behavior.'”

The AMA and the medical community has been outspoken about bans on transgender service since before the Obama administration passed its open service policy, finding no scientific justification for limiting military service to only cisgender individuals. Last year, the group once again reiterated its claim that there is “no medically valid” reason to bar transgender individuals from serving in the military. A much-cited 2015 study by the Palm Center also found that medical costs associated with allowing transgender individuals to serve openly would be “negligible” and would amount to “little more than a rounding error” when compared to the military’s massive budget.

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

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