Internal documents show a “massive disconnect” between what was discussed by a military panel, convened to evaluate the impact of allowing transgender military members to serve, and what was eventually recommended.
The panel made up of Departments of Defense and Homeland Security officials met in late 2017 to examine how the Pentagon could implement President Trump’s ban on transgender people from entering the armed forces.
The documents show that, early on, the panel was divided. “They seemed to believe that there should be a clear line as to what transition steps are ‘medically necessary’ and which aren’t that could be objectively applied,” according to Think Progress, the progressive news site that first reviewed the documents, made public during discovery in the four lawsuits challenging the Trump administration’s ban transgender service members.
But it turns out Vice President Mike Pence’s own “working group” full of anti-LGBTQ activists may have “effectively overruled” the panel’s work, according to Think Progress.
The documents show that at least two groups of medical experts “conveyed that allowing transgender service was the right call.”
The panel heard from various guests, including a group of nine current transgender service members, none of whom “had missed any deployments nor had any concerns with their units.”
ThinkProgress also interviewed two of the trans service members who met with the military panel and described a neutral (or even positive) exchange:
Both [Navy Lieutenant Commander Blake Dremann and Army Staff Sergeant Patricia King] left the meeting feeling very optimistic about the direction the panel was headed. King said that, from her perspective, there wasn’t any question about whether they would continue to allow trans military members to serve. It simply sounded like the panel was simply asking how they might revise the policy to improve trans service.
“They wanted to know how trans service was being received and if they got it right,” she said. “That’s how I walked away from it. They were leaders dedicated to their service members.”
“We were as surprised by what was said in the [final] recommendations, as a lot of other people were, because that was not our experience talking to the panel members,” Dremann said. “They seemed to realize that we had not caused any problems with the units or with our medical care.”
In March 2018, the Trump administration announced it would ban most trans people from serving in the military. The administration declared “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.”
Think Progress found some of the information in the final recommendation from the military panel closely resembled talking points from conservative, anti-LGBTQ groups whose members were part of Pence’s working group.
The court records, writes Think Progress, suggest that Pence’s influence “is the only explanation for how a panel that only heard information affirming transgender military service arrived at the opposite conclusion.”