WASHINGTON (AP) — An active-duty service member has received gender-reassignment surgery, the Pentagon said Tuesday, amid ongoing debate over whether transgender troops should be allowed to continue to serve in the military,
Defense Department spokeswoman Dana White said the surgery was done Tuesday in a private hospital and was paid for by the military’s health coverage because the doctor deemed it was medically necessary.
“”Military hospitals do not have the surgical expertise to perform this type of surgery, therefore it was conducted in a private hospital,” White said, adding that because this service member “had already begun a sex-reassignment course of treatment, and the treating doctor deemed this surgery medically necessary, a waiver was approved by the director of the Defense Health Agency.”
Army Maj. Dave Eastburn said that waivers are required and routinely approved for medical procedures that military facilities don’t have the expertise to perform.
The surgery was first reported by NBC News.
The Obama administration last year eliminated the longstanding ban on transgender individuals serving in the military. But President Donald Trump tweeted in July that the federal government “will not accept or allow” transgender troops to serve “in any capacity” in the military. He followed that a month later with a formal order telling the Pentagon to extend the ban. He gave the department six months to determine what to do about those currently serving.
Trump also directed Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to halt the use of federal funds to pay for sexual reassignment surgeries and medications, except in cases where it is deemed necessary to protect the health of an individual who has already begun the transition.
In September, Mattis sent out a memo making clear that transgender service members can continue to enlist, as the Pentagon grapples with how to implement Trump’s ban. A high-level panel is studying the issue, and Trump’s order was quickly condemned by key members of Congress and has been challenged in court.
A federal judge last month barred the Trump administration from proceeding with the plan.
Because the ban on transgender service members was only removed last year, gender reassignment surgeries have so far been relatively rare.
The Pentagon did not provide additional details on Tuesday’s surgery, due to privacy restrictions.
Copyright © 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.
The transgender community is “very scared and very worried” by a BBC documentary on how to approach gender dysphoria in children, organisations and activists are claiming.
The film – Transgender Kids: Who Knows Best? – prominently features Kenneth Zucker, a Canadian psychologist whose controversial approach with transgender children led to his being sacked in 2015 from a Toronto gender identity clinic.
'Crucial' study of transgender children links mental health with family support
Zucker disagrees with the now widely favoured “gender affirmative” approach to young people who feel they were born with the wrong gender. The approach encourages parents to allow their children with gender dysphoria to live as their chosen sex.
Instead, Zucker’s approach was likened to reparative therapy, which had the intended goal of “curing” children of transgender status. He also advocated more exploration into underlying psychological and mental health issues that might lead children to believe they were born the wrong gender.
Zucker’s comment in the documentary, where he says, “a four-year-old might say that he’s a dog – do you go out and buy dog food?” was a particular concern for the Mermaids Foundation, which represents transgender issues.
“That quote in itself is incredibly inflammatory for parents of trans children,” said Susie Green, chief executive officer of Mermaids.
“We’ve had real concern that this is going to cause them to be targeted, because it supports this idea of trans children being mentally disturbed or that they can be cured. Parents are very afraid.”
Green said she had been contacted by the producer of the documentary but only to see if she knew anyone who had “detransitioned”, and said it was worrying that this had been a focus for the programme makers.
Gender and the tyranny of the 'normal' | Philippa Perry
“In certain media outlets there have been a lot of negative comments around this idea of parents facilitating, or making their children be trans,” she said.
“To then think that Kenneth Zucker has been given a platform on the BBC, particularly, and be touted as an expert, that is going to further undermine the support and acceptance of their children.”
Discussion about the healthiest way to deal with children who present with gender dysphoria has been in the media headlines recently as numbers of referrals to the UK’s main child gender clinic have increased by 1,000% over the past five years.
Green expressed concern that Zucker’s approach emphasised links between gender dysphoria and mental health issues. In the documentary he says a “whole range of psychological issues can manifest themselves in a child’s desire to change their gender”.
Green added: “We are trying to move away from the perception of it being perceived as a psychological ailment, and this just goes backwards.”
Transgender children: the parents and doctors on the frontline
In December 2015 an investigation into the practices used by Zucker at Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health found that his clinic, which he had run for 30 years, was “not in step with the latest thinking”.
A highly critical external review was released showing the clinic encouraged parents to “limit cross gender behaviour”. Zucker was dismissed.
Zucker claimed the sacking was due to the politicisation of transgender issues. In the documentary he denies that he had practised conversion therapy and calls his approach “developmentally informed therapy”.
However, he had previously said that his goal was “lowering the odds that as such a kid gets older he or she will move into adolescence feeling so uncomfortable about their gender identity that they think that it would be better to live as the other gender and require treatment with hormones and sex-reassignment surgery”.
In 1990 he also spoke out in favour of discouraging children to be gay because, “a homosexual lifestyle in a basically unaccepting culture simply creates unnecessary social difficulties”.
Michelle Bridgeman, a psychotherapist for children with gender dysphoria, said: “I don’t think anybody has got this right just yet. But if you set out, as Zucker is, with the intention of curing somebody of their gender issues you are in danger of causing the very kind of mental health distress that you’re talking about avoiding.
“And the problem with putting Zucker on a programme like this is it gives further weight to those voices in places like the Daily Mail who say parents who let their children live as a different gender are evil or inhumane. It can be quite destructive.”
School for LGBT pupils planned for Manchester
Louie Stafford, of the LGBT foundation in Manchester, said: “We are at a precipice in terms of trans rights in the UK and this programme is really taking us back a few years, putting forward the question of whether young children’s trans experiences are legitimate.”
He was backed by Zinnia Jones, who co-founded Gender Analysis, a web series offering an in-depth look at transgender issues in society.
She described Zucker’s approach as “harmful and coercive” and was scathing of his view that such situations were often caused by a damaged childhood.
“Family dysfunction and unhealthy environments for child-rearing are so tragically commonplace that if this were a real contributor to transgender identity, we would likely see that a vastly greater portion of the population is transgender,” said Jones.
However the BBC documentary also features Zucker’s critics.
A BBC statement said: “With a rise in the number of children being referred to gender clinics, this programme sensitively presents different views from experts and parents on gender dysphoria in children.
“For more than 30 years Dr Kenneth Zucker ran Canada’s biggest child gender clinic and was considered a recognised authority on childhood gender dysphoria until he lost his job. He believes he was fired for challenging the gender affirmative approach.
“This documentary examines Zucker’s methods, but it also includes significant contributions from his critics and supporters of gender affirmation, including transgender activists in Canada and leading medical experts as well as parents with differing experiences of gender dysphoria and gender reassignment.”