More than 120 Democrats question Mattis’ recommendations on transgender troops

More than 120 House Democrats are rejecting the Trump administration’s policy banning most transgender people from the military.

A letter, authored by Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass.), calls on Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to reverse his recommendations regarding the recruitment and retention of transgender people in the military and to disclose the panel of experts who help advise Mattis on his suggestions.

“The Trump Administration’s decision to ban transgender troops abandons our proudest values, undermines our armed forces, defies established medical research and ignores basic science,” Kennedy said in a statement to Federal News Radio. “In attempting to create justification for the President’s thoughtless policy tweets, the Department of Defense used outdated studies and cherry-picked data. If President Trump and his Administration are committed to all of our service members, they will immediately reverse this bigoted ban.”

The letter states Mattis ignored a “global medical consensus” regarding the safety and reliability of transition care.

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It also states Mattis picked and chose data from outdated studies to support his conclusions.

“At one point, the DoD report cites data from the May Clinic that reaches back to 1971, which was years before the medical community had develop standards of care for gender dysphoria. At others, the report cites a Swedish study that includes subjects who underwent gender transition as far back as 1973,” the letter states.

The letter goes on to pick apart Mattis’ recommendations and the studies he relied on.

Mattis released his suggestions this March. The policy recommends barring service members with gender dysphoria. Only transgender people who have been “stable” in their gender for 36 months prior to joining the service can try to join the military. If someone receives a diagnosis while currently serving, but does not require a change of gender and can still deploy, then they may be able to stay in the military.

The policy, which President Donald Trump signed on March 23, brought criticism from all over the ideological spectrum.

“President Trump’s decision to ban transgender military service is vicious, inhumane and utterly wrong. There are scores of transgender men and women serving in the military right now, under a policy that had already been established and vetted by DOD and validated by the courts. There is zero credible evidence that this policy has negatively affected readiness,” House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said in a statement. “By issuing this decision, President Trump has engaged in an act of pure discrimination against people who sacrifice every day to serve their country — and who have been doing so for years. Stripping patriotic service members of their ability to serve openly in this way goes against American values. I condemn this decision and will continue to fight it with all of my abilities.”

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) told “Face the Nation” this weekend she supports transgender service members in the military as long as they meet the physical and mental standards.

“I have asked transgenders myself, if you are willing to lay down your life beside mine, I would welcome you into our military,” Ernst said.

Not everyone is upset with the decision, however. The conservative Heritage Foundation, which has worked closely with the Trump administration on policy issues, praised the decision.

“The requirements of military service are clear: every individual in uniform must be able to deploy, fight, and win in the worst of conditions, without any reliance on a daily flow of medications, medical treatment or special provision. We must also be certain our service members have the mental resilience to withstand the proven trauma of combat and the stress of prolonged deployments in austere environments. All are necessary standards if U.S. forces are going to prevail on distant battlefields,” Tom Spoehr, director of the Heritage Foundation’s Center for National Defense said in a statement. “Secretary Mattis recently, and properly, announced that every uniformed member of the military must be deployable. The armed forces are not a petri dish for social experimentation, nor is military service a guaranteed right; rather, our military is the first line of defense for America’s own unique experiment in liberty.”

Many leaders in the military, including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley and Navy Secretary Richard Spencer, stated transgender people are not an issue for the military.

Their responses led lawmakers to wonder who is on Mattis’ panel of experts that informed his recommendations.

Milley testified the deputy chiefs of staff for each service were on the panel, but no other information on who participated has come to light.

Similarly, many lawmakers wonder who advised President Trump when he first decided to ban transgender people from the military last July.

Last October, Rep. A. Donald McEachin sent a letter to the White House asking who advised Trump to ban transgender people from the military.

The Obama administration announced transgender people could serve openly in 2016 and created policy to allow for the accession of transgender people into the military starting the summer of 2017.

The most prominent studies from the RAND Corporation and the New England Journal of Medicine show transgender people in the military do not affect readiness and are not a burden cost-wise on health care.

Currently, due to a handful of court cases challenging the ban, the Obama-era policy is still in effect and transgender people are allowed to join the military and to serve openly for the time being.