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USA: American Medical Association finds no medically valid reason to ban trans* military

The United States American Medical Association passed a resolution today finding that there is no “medically valid reason” for banning transgender personnel from military service.

The AMA also recommended that transgender personnel be afforded medical care “according to the same medical standards that apply to non-transgender personnel.”

Paula Neira, a former US Navy Lieutenant and transgender veteran said the AMA resolution acknowledges that the current exclusionary regulations are unsupported by modern medicine.

“[The regulations] prevent the military from taking care of our troops by denying them medically necessary care," said Neira.

It is currently estimated that there are around 15,500 transgender personnel serving in the U.S military forces in silence today.

The former Coast Guard Director of Health and Safety (Surgeon General equivalent) Rear Admiral Alan M. Steinman, USPHS (Ret.) said that the resolution was significant because it put the AMA on the side of current medical thinking.

“It's a positive step that the AMA has recognized that transgender men and women have the same ability to function in high-stress military environments as any other qualified service members," said Steinman.

The resolution from the AMA comes days after the U.S. Air Force elevated the discharge authority for involuntary transgender related Airmen separations.

The U.S. Air Force press release states that “Neither gender dysphoria nor self-identification as transgender is an automatic circumstance that generates involuntary separation.”

In the year prior to the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” similar guidance was issued by then Secretary of Defence Robert Gates to raise the discharge authority for separation of gay and lesbian personnel.

In March this year, the U.S. Army also raised the discharge authority for transgender personnel, but there are no signs of whether the U.S. Navy will follow suit or if higher level guidance will be issued.

The Palm Centre studies sexual minorities in the military and hosted an international conference attended by Australian transgender military representatives last year to explore whether it would be possible for transgender personnel to serve.

During the conference, a number of former and reserve military personnel revealed horror stories of how the went from highly skilled commendable personnel to being benched when they revealed their gender identity and led to their eventual discharge.

Dr. Aaron Belkin, Director of the Palm Center, welcomed today's resolution and said that the exclusionary policy was being fuelled by incorrect claims that transgender personnel require more burdensome medical care in the field than other military members.

"Citing mounting research to the contrary, the AMA has now joined a chorus of expert voices showing this assertion to be false,” said Belkin.

“The evidence illustrates that the military has no sound reason for this discriminatory policy that bans transgender troops who simply want to serve their country."

Buzzfeed reports that last month, the US Army gave permission for Jamie Lee Henry to change her name and gender while remaining on active duty.

In the lead up to the AMAs decision, she wrote the following letter:

I am writing in support of the proposed resolution -- Military Medical Policies Affecting Transgender Individuals. I am an active duty physician. An AMA member. And I am transgender.

As you may know, the Army and Air Force have taken administrative steps to make it easier for transgender soldiers like me to serve. The Secretary of Defense, this past February expressed his support for transgender soldiers by stating: “I don’t think anything but their suitability for service should preclude them,” and the President, our Commander in Chief, stated a day later that he agreed with the sentiment that all Americans who are qualified to serve should be able to serve.

The resolution under consideration asks the AMA to affirm that there is no medically valid reason that transgender individuals, like me, cannot serve. It also asks the AMA to affirm that transgender service members should be provided care according to the same medical standards that apply to cis-gender personnel. These policies statements are critically important and will have a timely impact for the over 15,000 transgender soldiers like me.

Delaying adoption of this policy, by referring it for further consideration, will only serve to further harm those of us who actively serve our country in silence every day. We simply cannot wait.

The AMA’s mission is to promote the art and science of medicine and the betterment of public health. The science on this issue is clear. There is no medical basis for the current ban. The resolution cites a peer reviewed paper co-authored by former Surgeon General Elders, former Surgeon General Admiral Steinman, the world's leading scholar on transgender military service Dr. George Brown, and Dr. Eli Coleman, lead author of the WPATH Standards of Care. That article provides a comprehensive analysis of the science – and again the science is clear -- there is no evidence that justifies a ban.

As a military physician in active practice, and an AMA member, I cannot emphasize the importance of the AMA taking a stand on this issue.

Thank you

Pictured above: International military representatives at the Palm Centre conference exploring whether transgender military service is possible

About the Author
Author: Vince Chong
Vince is the President of DEFGLIS. He is a project manager and an electronics engineer.
Also written by this author:

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