General testifies: Serving transgender troops should not be separated from the military

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Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Gen. Joseph Dunford is in the process of being confirmed as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for a second term. On Tuesday, he said he has advised that currently serving transgender troops should not be separated from the military.

Asked by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) whether he agrees that currently serving transgender troops have served with “honor and valor,” Dunford replied, “I do.”

“I believe that any individual who meets the physical and mental standards, and is worldwide deployable and is currently serving, should be afforded the opportunity to continue to serve,” continued Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

Gillibrand further questioned him about whether he can promise that currently serving transgender troops will not be separated based solely on their gender identity. Dunford replied, “I can promise that that would be my advice. What I just articulated is the advice I provided in private, and I’ve just provided in public.”

Dunford was first nominated to be chairman by former President Obama in 2015. President Trump nominated him for a second term in May.

In July, President Trump announced on Twitter that he planned to ban all transgendered military service; and in August, he followed through by signing a presidential memo.

The memo prohibits the military from enlisting transgender people and from using funds to pay for gender transition-related surgery. It also gives Defense Secretary James Mattis six months to determine what to do with currently serving transgender troops.

Mattis said he would establish a panel of experts to determine how to implement Trump’s order and that currently serving transgender troops would be allowed to continue serving while the study is ongoing.

Gillibrand, Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.), committee ranking member Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) have introduced a bill that would block Trump’s transgender ban by prohibiting the Pentagon from involuntarily separating or denying the re-enlistment of currently serving transgender troops solely on the basis of gender identity.

Asked by Gillibrand on Tuesday whether he’s met with transgender troops since Trump’s announcement, Dunford said he has not.

“I have not since, I guess, August when the announcement was made,” he said, “but I will certainly do that.”

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