Dear Secretary Esper:
The Department of Defense and the United States Armed Forces have long been at the forefront in advancing diversity and inclusion in our nation. While we continue to make positive steps forward for female, minority, gay, and lesbian military service members, we are deeply concerned that the administration's policies towards transgender service members are highly discriminatory against this class of individuals and remain an effective ban on their ability to serve our country in uniform.
In the Fiscal Year 2020 NDAA, the House of Representatives included a provision that would have codified non-discrimination in our Armed Forces and ended the effective ban on transgender service members. This amendment passed the House floor on a bipartisan vote of 242 to 187. We were profoundly disappointed when this amendment was stripped from the final version of the bill. However, a provision was passed into law that requires the Department to provide Congress an annual report on the number of transgender applicants and service members who sought and received a waiver or an exception to policy to permit their enlistment, accession, or retention.
We have received the first report and have a number of concerns. First, while we recognize that the current pandemic has imposed added constraints on the Department, the information provided is from February of this year, yet the report was only delivered in July, five months after it was written. As such it does not reflect an accurate, most up to date account of the effects of the administration's policy on transgender service members.
Second, the report indicates that only two service members were considered for a waiver, and that zero waivers were granted through February 17, 2020. When issuing the policy on transgender service members, the Administration guaranteed gender dysphoria would be treated as any other medical condition and that it would be waiverable through standard Department processes. We understood this to include those transgender members already serving who received a diagnosis of gender dysphoria after the implementation of the new policy. With open source reporting indicating that only a single waiver has been granted by the Navy since February, it is clear the administration's policy towards transgender service members is effectively a ban.
We ask for a detailed response from the Department, no later than August 15, 2020, on the reasoning behind the lack of waivers considered and granted and what effect it has had on the accession and retention of transgender members as follows:
1. A revision to the Report to Congressional Defense Committees on Certain Waivers submitted on June 29, 2020 that reflects data accurate as July 31, 2020.
2. Any guidance or instructions provided to Department personnel for the assessment of waivers for gender dysphoria.
3. Only 19 individuals were found medically disqualified pursuant to the standards established in DTM-19-004 regarding enlistment or commission as an officer (less than 0.007% of all individuals processed during the reporting period), but none of them were considered for a waiver, and none ultimately enlisted or commissioned. While protecting their personal information, why were they not considered for waivers?
4. A total of 197 service members have received a diagnosis of gender dysphoria on or after April 12, 2019, 12 of whom were referred to the Disability Evaluation System and 3 of whom were subject to processing for administrative separation. Only two of these individuals were considered for a waiver. While protecting their personal information, why were the other service members not considered for a waiver, and why were no waivers granted?
The military must be open to all who meet a common set of requirements and wish to serve their country. We must treat all service members with respect and gratitude for their selfless sacrifice. Since the administration's imposition of these policies, thousands of transgender service members have been treated as second class citizens and discriminated against by the very nation they fight to protect. This is unacceptable and we ask you to take immediate action to remedy this situation.
We thank you in advance for your prompt response and attention to this issue. We look forward to working with you to ensure this includes our transgender service members and that all citizens who wish to serve their nation are able to do so.