April 11, 2019

Medical Leaders Admonish Pentagon for Calling the Need to Transition Gender a “Deficiency” and a “Defect”

Military’s New Transgender Ban Adds Gender Dysphoria to List of Developmental “Defects” Alongside Bed-Wetting

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Following today’s statement by the American Medical Association reproaching the Pentagon for calling the need to transition gender a “deficiency,” medical leaders have issued a statement expressing a similar concern. A new regulation banning transgender troops that is set to take effect this Friday, April 12 classifies any circumstances in which a transgender service member is “unable or unwilling to adhere” to the standards of their birth sex as “deficiencies” that the member must “correct” as a condition of continued service. Signatories to the statement include former U.S. and military Surgeons General.

The new military-wide regulation adds gender dysphoria to official lists of disqualifying conditions that include bed-wetting and “disturbances of perception, thinking, emotional control, or behavior.” Defense Department regulations characterize the conditions on these lists as “congenital or developmental defects.”

The military’s official list of disqualifying conditions has a notorious history, and previously included homosexuality within its category of “mental disorders”—decades after the medical community removed it from its list of mental disorders. Homosexuality was finally removed from the military’s list in 2011 with the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell.” Disqualifying conditions included “sexual gender and identity disorders” as well, but the Obama administration removed the stigmatizing language about transgender troops in 2016. The ban to take effect on Friday, April 12restores gender dysphoria to the group.

Contrary to Trump administration claims that its new policy does not amount to a ban, a research memo released yesterday by the Palm Center explains exactly how the Trump policy operates as a transgender ban and how it harms all transgender service members. According to the memo, the policy “depends on directly banning the transgender people who are immediately identifiable and threatening the rest, forcing them to remain silent and invisible. It is ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ all over again.”

Statement by former U.S. Surgeons General and military Surgeons General

“We 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.’ We have already expressed our concern over the Defense Department’s misuse of science to justify discharging transgender service members and denying them medically necessary care. Here we note that there is a global medical consensus that the need to undergo gender transition is not a deficiency or a defect, that stigmatizing transgender individuals in this way is inappropriate for a U.S. government entity, and that scapegoating and denial of medical care will compromise the well-being of transgender service members who are otherwise fit and available for duty.” 

M. Joycelyn Elders, MD, MS
15th Surgeon General of the United States

David Satcher, MD, PhD, FAAFP, FACPM, FACP
16th Surgeon General of the United States

Vivek H. Murthy, MD, MBA
19th Surgeon General of the United States

Vice Admiral Donald C. Arthur, USN (Ret.)
Former Surgeon General of the U.S. Navy

Major General Gale Pollock, USA (Ret.)
Former Acting Surgeon General of the U.S. Army

Rear Admiral Alan M. Steinman, USPHS/USCG (Ret.)
Former Director of Health and Safety (Surgeon General equivalent) of the U.S. Coast Guard