March 28, 2018

Former Surgeons General Debunk Pentagon Assertions about Medical Fitness of Transgender Troops

SAN FRANCISCO, CA –  Following this week’s statement by the American Psychological Association expressing alarm over the Trump Administration’s “misuse of psychological science to stigmatize transgender Americans and justify limiting their ability to serve in uniform and access medically necessary health care,” the Palm Center today released the following statement by former U.S. Surgeons General M. Joycelyn Elders and David Satcher:


“We are troubled that the Defense Department’s report on transgender military service has mischaracterized the robust body of peer-reviewed research on the effectiveness of transgender medical care as demonstrating ‘considerable scientific uncertainty.’ In fact, there is a global medical consensus that such care is reliable, safe, and effective. An expectation of certainty is an unrealistic and counterproductive standard of evidence for health policy—whether civilian or military—because even the most well-established medical treatments could not satisfy that standard. Indeed, setting certainty as a standard suggests an inability to refute the research. A wide body of reputable, peer-reviewed research has demonstrated to psychological and health experts that treatments for gender dysphoria are effective. Research on the effectiveness of medical care for gender dysphoria was the basis of the American Medical Association’s 2015 resolution that ‘there is no medically valid reason to exclude transgender individuals from service in the U.S. military,’ and we expressed our support for the resolution at the time of its passage. In light of last week’s announcement concerning military policy for transgender service members, we underscore that transgender troops are as medically fit as their non-transgender peers and that there is no medically valid reason—including a diagnosis of gender dysphoria—to exclude them from military service or to limit their access to medically necessary care.”


M. Joycelyn Elders, M.D., M.S.

15th Surgeon General of the United States


David Satcher, M.D., Ph.D., FAAFP, FACPM, FACP

16th Surgeon General of the United States