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LGBTQ Agenda: Vets groups blast anti-trans Defense Dept. instructions

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Defense Secretary Mark Esper. Photo: Courtesy CNN
Defense Secretary Mark Esper. Photo: Courtesy CNN  

LGBTQ veterans' groups are blasting new instructions from the United States Department of Defense regarding military service by transgender people.

Denny Meyer, a Vietnam-era U.S. Navy veteran who is the public affairs officer for American Veterans for Equal Rights, told the Bay Area Reporter that he read the instructions "until my eyes glazed over."

"The whole thing — it's bureaucratic bullshit," Meyer said in a recent interview. "They made an effort to sound excruciatingly fair but, between the lines, they are clearly trying to keep trans people out."

Jennifer Dane, the interim executive director of the Modern Military Association of America, an LGBTQ veterans nonprofit, had assertions about the instructions' legality.

"This latest policy implementation proves that the Trump-Pence administration is more concerned with doubling down on unconstitutional discrimination than it is with recognizing and honoring the service and sacrifice of the thousands of transgender patriots who serve our country," Dane wrote in a September 18 email.

"There is no getting around the fact that this administration's trans military ban is based on nothing more than blatant bigotry," Dane added. "Time and again, transgender service members have more than proven themselves with honor and distinction. MMAA is proud to continue our fight to support transgender patriots and overturn the Trump-Pence transgender military ban."

The new instructions — effective September 4 — are updated from previous Pentagon instructions promulgated March 12, 2019. Those instructions amounted to an effective ban on transgender service in the U.S. armed forces, according to trans advocates.

The Palm Center, a think tank previously known as the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military and now based in San Francisco, stated contemporaneously that it was "as comprehensive a ban as possible."

The policy, which reverses course from a trans-inclusionary policy adopted by the Pentagon under former President Barack Obama in 2016, was issued almost two years after President Donald Trump tweeted — in a reported surprise to Pentagon top brass — that "the United States Government will not accept or allow ... Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military."

The policy disallows anyone diagnosed with gender dysphoria and taking hormones or who has already had gender-affirming surgery from re-enlisting in the armed forces; mandates that troops diagnosed with gender dysphoria after the adoption of the policy serve as their sex assigned at birth; and forbids them from hormonal or surgical treatment.

Troops serving at the time of the policy's adoption who had already transitioned were not discharged.

The 27-page instructions detail how the 2019 policy will be enforced. It is careful to avoid stating that there is a trans ban.

"No person, solely on the basis of his or her gender identity, will be denied accession into the military services," the instructions state, before listing a number of policies that critics say effectively do so.

Meyer said that the instructions are written carefully so they can be re-done in the event former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. wins the November presidential election.

Biden, a Democrat, has criticized the Trump-era transgender policies saying that "every qualified American should be allowed to serve." More than 100 House Democrats signed a letter in July to Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Attorney General William Barr demanding an end to the ban.

"The Department of Defense is attempting to tread water while waiting to see what happens in November," Meyer said. "They're trying to follow the current administration, but not burn down the whole house, in case Biden wins."

There are at least four lawsuits challenging the 2019 policy working their way through the nation's federal courts.

LGBTQ Agenda is an online column that appears weekly. Got a tip on queer news? Contact John Ferrannini at j.ferrannini@ebar.com

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