Multiple sources told Slate that Mike Pence “played a leading role in the creation of this report,” along with anti-transgender activists Ryan Anderson and Tony Perkins.
Anderson works at the right wing Heritage Foundation and recently wrote When Harry Became Sally, a book that claims that being transgender is a mental illness based on the narratives of “ex-transgender” people. Perkins works for the Family Research Council, an SPLC designated hate group.
Another source told Think Progress that the report was a product of a “working group” led by Pence that produced a report with different conclusions from Mattis’s committee report. The source said that Pence “overruled” Mattis’s report, but did not explain exactly what that meant.
Sources for Slate said that Mattis chose not to spend “political capital” fighting Pence on this issue.
Anderson, for his part, has refused to deny working on this report, which contains many of the same arguments found in his book. Both say that the science is still out on whether transitioning is helpful, even though major medical organizations like the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association affirm that transitioning is an effective treatment for gender dysphoria.
The Pence report does not discuss the American Medical Association or the American Psychological Association at all.
Both also cite a Swedish study that found that the suicide rate for transgender people is high after transitioning, claiming this is evidence that transitioning leads to suicide. The Swedish study’s author has publicly said that her study “DOES NOT say that medical transition causes people to commit suicide.”
Instead, the study found that factors associated with oppression – like poverty and unemployment – explain the suicide rate. Transitioning “won’t resolve the effects of crushing social oppression,” the author told Think Progress.
Anderson’s obsession with “ex-transgender” people also found its way into Trump’s new policy, which says that a transgender person who has “been stable for 36 consecutive months in their biological sex” can join the military.
Trump’s previous transgender ban was rejected by four federal courts that cited due process rights. One federal judge said that the transgender military ban is sex discrimination, which requires the government to show an “exceedingly persuasive justification.”
The White House has not been able to produce any of the research it engaged in before Trump tweeted his transgender military ban last year, making it hard for a judge to agree that they had an “exceedingly persuasive justification.”
The Pence report might be an attempt to meet this burden after the fact. While key military figures have already said that they were not consulted on this policy, Pence might believe that a report with the Defense Department‘s logo on the cover is enough to satisfy the White House’s legal obligations.