Four months after President Donald Trump first tweeted he would block transgender people from serving in the military, and two weeks after a federal judge temporarily blocked that ban, one transgender military member has undergone gender-confirmation surgery. Hers is the first procedure approved and funded by the Pentagon.
According to the New York Times, an active-duty military member received the surgery on Tuesday afternoon. According to NBC News, the service member who underwent the surgery is a female infantry soldier who got her Combat Infantry Badge in Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan in 2003.
In a statement from Chief Spokesperson Dana W. White, the Pentagon stated that a waiver for funding the service member’s procedure was approved by the director of the Defense Health Agency because she had already began a gender-confirmation course of treatment, and her doctor deemed the procedure medically necessary.
Since military hospitals don’t have the surgical expertise for gender-confirmation surgery, the service member received the procedure in a private hospital. The Supplemental Health Care Program is covering the cost of surgery, as dictated by the Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ interim guidance on transgender service members.
According to a 2016 study from the RAND Corporation, allowing transgender military members to serve openly would have “minimal impact” on readiness and heathcare costs, contradicting Trump’s initial assertion of the costliness of trans service members when he first issued the ban via Twitter.
“Regardless of Trump’s attempts at enshrining discrimination in policy, we must ensure that transgender troops are treated the same as everyone else. That includes equal access to medically-necessary care,” Human Rights Campaign National Press Secretary Sarah McBride told the Daily Dot in a statement.
A representative Lambda Legal did not return the Daily Dot’s request for comment.
Update 12:52pm CT, Nov. 15: In August, LGBTQ law advocacy group Lambda Legal filed a joint lawsuit with OutServe-SLDN, a nonprofit transgender advocacy group, challenging Trump’s transgender service member ban. In response to the news of the Pentagon funding its first gender-confirmation surgery, Lambda Legal Senior Attorney Natalie Nardecchia issued the following statement to the Daily Dot:
“All service members deserve the medical care that they need. People bravely serving should not be denied such treatment. If a currently serving transgender service member received a gender confirmation surgery then that only shows that DoD recognizes that to be medically necessary care. This begs the question of why DoD would then arbitrarily decide to deny transgender service members this medically necessary care starting in March 2018. The bottom line is that unless the President’s ban is enjoined in full —which is what we are asking—bravely serving transgender service members will be singled out and deprived of the medical care they need.”