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Online Extra: Gays Across America: State AGs tell Congress to support trans troops

by Seth Hemmelgarn

Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin
Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin  

Attorneys general from California and 18 other states have written to the Senate and House Armed Services committees urging congress members on the panels to support transgender people serving in the military.

"The members of our armed forces put their lives on the line to protect freedom for all Americans," the AGs said in their letter Thursday, July 27. "Thousands of transgender Americans serve in uniform today. This policy tells them, 'You are not welcome here.' The decision to oust honorable, well-trained, and patriotic service members based on nothing more than their gender identity is undiluted discrimination and therefore discrimination and therefore indefensible. We urge that this newly announced policy be immediately reversed."

The letter comes a day after President Donald Trump tweeted, "After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military."

But it's doubtful that Trump actually consulted with any military officials before making his policy announcement. The AGs noted in their letter that General Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, subsequently stated, "There will be no modification to the current policy until the president's direction has been received by the secretary of defense and the secretary has issued implementation guidance."

Other military leaders and congressional leaders also seemed to be caught off guard by Trump's tweets.

The AGs asked the congress members to protect trans service members through the National Defense Authorization Act by including language prohibiting discrimination against trans people who are serving in the armed forces and by reaffirming that trans people may not be banned from serving in the military.

In a news release announcing the letter, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said, "Transgender Americans who fight for our country deserve a government that will fight for them in return. We will fight to ensure all New Yorkers â€"and all Americans â€" are treated with dignity and fairness."

Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin, who led the states' effort, stated, "Policies that have no factual basis and that marginalize and reject classes of people have no place in the 21st century."

Other states represented by the letter were Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Washington, D.C.

To read the full letter, go to

On Friday, July 28, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) led 44 other senators in signing a bipartisan letter that urges Defense Secretary James Mattis to tell Trump not to implement the ban.

"We appreciate General Dunford's message that no policy changes should be made until implementation guidelines have been issued," the senators said in the letter, which was announced by the national Human Rights Campaign. "We further write to request that, at a minimum, you do not separate any service member due to the person's gender identity until you have completed the assessment that you announced on June 30, have reported back to Congress about any challenges that you foresee in the accession and retention of transgender troops, and determined the department is unable to mitigate these challenges."

California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, both Democrats, were among the other lawmakers who signed the letter, which is available at


Report examines surgeries on intersex children

Doctors in the United States are still performing medically unnecessary surgeries on intersex children, Human Rights Watch and interACT said in a report released July 25.

"The devastation caused by medically unnecessary surgery on intersex infants is both physical and psychological," Kimberly Zieselman, an intersex woman and executive director of interACT, said in a news release announcing the report, "'I Want to Be Like Nature Made Me': Medically Unnecessary Surgeries on Intersex Children in the US."

"Despite decades of patient advocates putting the medical community on notice about the harm from these procedures, many doctors continue to present these surgeries to parents as good options," said Zieselman.

Kyle Knight, the Human Rights Watch researcher who wrote the report, stated, "The medical community has made progress in intersex care in recent decades, but medically unnecessary irreversible surgeries on children and infants remain common. The pressure to fit in and live a 'normal' life is real, but there is no evidence that surgery delivers on the promise of making that easier, and ample evidence that it risks causing irreversible lifelong harm."

The groups said that the chromosomes, gonads, internal, or external sex organs of intersex children don't match social expectations, but "A child can be raised as either sex without surgery. On the other hand, genital or gonadal surgeries on intersex children too young to declare their gender identity carry the risk of surgically assigning the wrong sex."

Risks to changing the appearance of children's genitals include scarring, incontinence, and psychological trauma.

The report is available at


Gays Across America is a column addressing LGBTQ issues nationwide. It runs most Tuesdays. Please submit comments or column ideas to Seth Hemmelgarn at (415) 875-9986



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