SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — An independent commission led by a former U.S. surgeon general has concluded there “is no compelling medical reason” for the U.S. armed forces to prohibit transgender Americans from serving and that President Barack Obama could lift the decades-old ban without approval from Congress, according to a report being released Thursday.
The report said Department of Defense regulations designed to keep transgender people from joining or remaining in the military on the grounds of psychological and physical unfitness are based on outdated beliefs that require thousands of current service members either to leave the service or to forego the medical procedures and other changes that could align their bodies and gender identities.
“We determined not only that there is no compelling medical reason for the ban, but also that the ban itself is an expensive, damaging and unfair barrier to health care access for the approximately 15,450 transgender personnel who serve currently in the active, Guard and reserve components,” said the commission led by Dr. Joycelyn Elders, who served as surgeon general during Bill Clinton’s first term as president, and Rear Adm. Alan Steinman, a former chief health and safety director for the Coast Guard.
The panel, convened by a think tank at San Francisco State University, said the ban has existed for several decades and apparently was derived in part from the psychiatric establishment’s consensus, since revised, that gender identity issues amounted to a mental disorder.
The ban also appears based on the assumption that providing hormone treatment and sex reassignment surgeries would be too difficult, disruptive and expensive. But the commission rejected those notions as inconsistent with modern medical practice and the scope of health care services routinely provided to non-transgender military personnel.