Nearly a week after President Donald Trump issued an order banning some transgender people from serving in the U.S. military, the Pentagon is refusing to provide clarity, citing ongoing legal challenges.
Last Friday, the White House released a memo from Trump to Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, stating the administration concurred with a policy for transgender service members privately recommended by Mattis in late February.
The memo said Mattis and Nielsen "have concluded that the accession or retention of individuals with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria — those who may require substantial medical treatment, including through medical drugs or surgery — presents considerable risk to military effectiveness and lethality."
"Gender dysphoria" (formerly known as gender identity disorder) is defined by strong, persistent feelings of identification with the opposite gender and discomfort with one's own assigned sex that results in significant distress or impairment.
The memo also granted the secretaries the authority to implement policies as they saw fit.
But since then, the Department of Defense has been silent, refusing to answer questions from reporters seeking clarity on a new policy that could affect nearly 9,000 transgender service members.
The pattern continued Thursday when Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White told reporters, "We will continue to comply with four court orders assessing transgender applicants for military service and retaining current transgender service members."
White said she is prevented from discussing any aspect of the new policy because of ongoing litigation challenging Trump's order to ban transgender forces.
The Pentagon said there are 8,980 service members who identify as transgender, but only 937 active-duty service members were diagnosed with gender dysphoria.