April 25, 2018

Six Former Surgeons General ​Rebut Pentagon Assertions About Medical Fitness of Transgender Troops


SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Six former U.S. Surgeons General have signed a statement disputing Defense Department assertions about the medical fitness of transgender troops. Former U.S. Surgeons General M. Joycelyn Elders and David Satcher originally released the statement last month in response to a Pentagon proposal to reinstate the transgender ban. Since that time, four more former U.S. Surgeons General have signed onto the statement.

“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 ​several of us​ expressed our support for the resolution at the time of its passage. In light of last month’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, MD, MS
15th Surgeon General of the United States

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

Richard Carmona, MD, MPH, FACS
17th Surgeon General of the United States

Regina Benjamin, MD, MBA
18th Surgeon General of the United States

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

Kenneth P. Moritsugu, MD, MPH, FACPM
Surgeon General of the United States (acting), 2002; 2006-7