There are a lot of news stories floating around today that Secretary of Defense James Mattis has frozen the president’s (despicable and transphobic) transgender military ban. According to a USA Today report, Mattis froze the policy and is “allowing” troops to continue to service. While it would be great if that was what actually happened, the truth is that Mattis is no hero. All he actually did was follow the orders that the president laid out in his recent memo that clarified the ban.
As the president explained in this memo last Friday, the secretary of defense, in consultation with the secretary of homeland security, is ordered to “determine how to address transgender individuals currently serving in the United States military” in regard to “military effectiveness and lethality, budgetary constraints, and applicable law.” From there, a plan has to be submitted by Feb. 21, 2018 and, on March 23, 2018, the full ban will go into effect.
All that Mattis announced yesterday was that he’d be creating a study to research the impact the ban would have on military effectiveness. Technically, Mattis could recommend the ban is a bad idea and attempt to convince the president to allow transgender troops to stay, but he really has no real power. Plus, this new study is one big mess of bullshit because the military already did a study on the effects of having transgender soldiers in the military and (surprise!) they found that there were no negative effects and costs very little.
The new study isn’t some saving grace to block the president. It’s just sticking with the new status quo and, most importantly, misreporting on Mattis “freezing” the ban is dangerous. As Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center of Lesbian Rights, explained to Slate, “Inaccurate reporting” is “playing into a patently bogus strategy to make it appear that there is going to be some new ‘study’ that will legitimize what is already a forgone conclusion: the discriminatory banning of military service by transgender people, based on a characteristic that has no bearing on their fitness to serve.”
To truly stop the ban and protect transgender soldiers, we cannot rely on General Mattis. Instead, it will take lawsuits, which is what heroic organizations that include the National Center of Lesbian Rights and the ACLU are fighting back with.