‘No medically valid reason’ to ban trans people from military, says American Medical Association

US President Donald Trump and VP Mike Pence (NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty)

Leading medical, psychological and military experts have condemned a shocking report produced by Trump officials that claimed transgender troops were “unstable” and not suitable for military service.

In a letter to President Donald Trump’s Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, the American Medical Association (AMA) savaged a report signed off by Mattis earlier this month that set out the case for a ban on transgender soldiers.

The report made a number of spurious claims about why transgender people should be banned from the military, citing transgender people’s “high rates of mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and substance use disorders” and “extremely high rates of suicidal ideation and other co-morbidities.”

Those claims were rubbished by the American Medical Association in a letter to Mattis.

Australian soldiers

Soldiers (Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

The body said: “On behalf of the physician and medical student members of the American Medical Association (AMA), I am writing to express our concern about the new policy recently approved by President Trump imposing limits on transgender individuals serving in the military.

“This new policy, based on recommendations you made in February to President Trump, states that ‘transgender persons with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria—individuals who the policies state may require substantial medical treatment, including medications and surgery—are disqualified from military service except under certain limited circumstances.’

“We believe there is no medically valid reason—including a diagnosis of gender dysphoria—to exclude transgender individuals from military service.

“Transgender individuals have served, and continue to serve, our country with honour, and we believe they should be allowed to continue doing so.”

A U.S Marine (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

It added: “We share the concerns [that] the Defense Department’s February 22, 2018, Memorandum for the President mischaracterised and rejected the wide body of peer-reviewed research on the effectiveness of transgender medical care.

“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 supports public and private health insurance coverage for treatment of gender dysphoria as recommended by the patient’s physician.

“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. It should not be used as a reason to deny patriotic Americans an opportunity to serve their country. We should be honouring their service.”

U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis (Photo by Jonathan Ernst-Pool/Getty Images)

Former U.S. Surgeons General M. Joycelyn Elders and David Satcher also rubbished the ban.

They said: “We are troubled that the Defense Department’s report on transgender military service has mischaracterised 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.”

The American Psychological Association also condemned the Trump administration.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence speaks before U.S. President Donald Trump (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

It said: “The American Psychological Association is alarmed by the administration’s misuse of psychological science to stigmatise transgender Americans and justify limiting their ability to serve in uniform and access medically necessary health care.

“Substantial psychological research shows that gender dysphoria is a treatable condition, and does not, by itself, limit the ability of individuals to function well and excel in their work, including in military service. The science is clear that individuals who are adequately treated for gender dysphoria should not be considered mentally unstable. Additionally, the incidence of gender dysphoria is extremely low.

“No scientific evidence has shown that allowing transgender people to serve in the armed forces has an adverse impact on readiness or unit cohesion. What research does show is that discrimination and stigma undermine morale and readiness by creating a significant source of stress for sexual minorities that can harm their health and well-being.”

At a press conference last month, Mattis refused to answer any questions about the report.

A string of courts have issued injunctions blocking the policy from coming into effect.

The White House issued a new policy document on the issue late last week, producing a lengthy report on how the ban would be imposed if the court action is defeated.

It has since been alleged that anti-LGBT lobbyists had a hidden hand in drafting the report – alongside the Vice President Mike Pence.

Slate report alleged that “Pence played a leading role in the creation of this report,” and that he overruled objections from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who privately advocated for transgender service,

Slate claimed that two anti-LGBT activists, Ryan T. Anderson of the Heritage Foundation and Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, helped Pence draft the report.

ThinkProgress also reported on allegations Pence was involved, claiming: “Though it bears Mattis’ signature, the report released Friday appears to reflect the findings of Pence’s working group and not the committee report that Mattis submitted to Trump last month.

“Mattis’ original document is not currently publicly available, but it was widely reported that Mattis favored an inclusive approach that resembled what had originally been proposed by Defense Secretary Ash Carter under President Obama in 2016.”