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Former US Surgeon General and new report slams military's ban on transgender members

Joycelyn Elders says ban 'has long been a policy in search of a rationale'
Dr_ Joycelyn_Elders
Photo: National Institutes of Health

Former US Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders calls the military's ban on transgender people serving 'a policy in search of a rationale.'

Elders made her remarks upon the release today of a report by the Transgender Military Service Commission which concluded that the Pentagon's ban on transgender military service is not based on sound medical reasoning.

'We looked hard for any type of sound rationale and found none,' said Elders, who served as US Surgeon General from 1993 until 1994. 'Reforming the policy is really a simple matter of updating references to outdated medical science and removing unnecessary barriers to enlistment and retention.'

Although the military has ended its ban on gays and lesbians serving openly, the ban on transgender people serving openly remains.

The commission found medical regulations which require transgender personnel to be discharged to be inconsistent with how the military regulates all other medical and psychological conditions.

It states: 'Transgender-related conditions appear to be the only gender-related conditions that require discharge irrespective of fitness for duty.'

The reports points to at least twelve allied militaries such as Australia, Canada and England, that allow transgender service as examples for the US to follow.

In addition, there are already several US federal agencies with administrative policies in place to address fitness testing, records and identification, uniforms, housing and privacy for transgender military service.

Retired Brigadier General Thomas Kolditz, a former Army commander and West Point professor on the commission, tells the Associated Press: 'When you closet someone, you create a security risk, and we don’t need another Chelsea Manning.'

Kolditz was referring to the soldier formerly known as Bradley Manning who after being sentenced for leaking classified documents to the website WikiLeaks came out as transgender.

The study was sponsored by the Department of Political Science at San Francisco State University's Palm Center. In addition to Elders, the commission was led by Rear Admiral Alan Steinman, a former chief health and safety director for the US Coast Guard.

The outspoken Elders was fired by then-President Bill Clinton in 1994 for saying masturbation should be taught to prevent young people from engaging in riskier forms of sexual activity.

Clinton had previously stood by her after controversial comments about drug legalization and distributing contraception in schools.

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