What Should We Do for Trans Servicemembers in the Military?

The Palm Center is launching 11 different studies that aim to fully investigate the issue of trans servicemembers in today’s military and how we can lift the ban on trans soldiers.

When in 2011 the Obama administration signed into a law a repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” rule that banned openly gay servicemembers, LGBT rights advocates praised the step but were quick to point out that the fight would continue. This is because trans servicemembers still face discrimination in the military under different regulations that categorize trans identity as a mental illness that can lead to a discharge from service.

Now the Palm Center, a leading researcher on sexual and gender minorities in the military, is about to embark on a three year research campaign involving 16 scholars and 11 studies to ascertain “whether and how the US armed forces could include transgender troops without undermining readiness.”

Project Director Indra Lusero has said this research will be used to “inform an important public conversation by providing facts and evidence about transgender military service and gender expression in armed forces.” She added that, “Militaries around the world are updating their policies, and we are already conducting research in Canada, Britain and Australia to learn whether their trans-inclusive regulations have impacted readiness.”

Currently, Canada, Britain and Australia all allow trans servicemembers. The United States military, in contrast, has a DADT-style approach that forces trans members to remain in the closet or face sanction or even discharge.

The research will span 11 key areas. Here is a brief list of each study and a quick explanation of each study’s main goal:

  • Cost and Complexity of Care (pdf) — Just how expensive will it be for the military to accommodate the medical needs of trans servicemembers? This study aims to use existing scales, for instance comparing trans medical care to the expenses incurred for treating other servicemembers with specific medical needs, or by using a new scale to approximate the costs. Depending on the outcome of the study, this may be important for arguing that trans servicemembers’ medical needs can be accommodated without undue burden on the military’s financial resources.
  • Discrimination and Readiness (pdf) — This study aims to assess whether the ban on transgender troops serving openly impacts their ability to properly perform their jobs. Given that the DADT ban was evidenced to negatively impact gay servicemembers, and the anecdotal evidence of several trans members of the military, it is highly likely the ban does affect trans servicemembers.
  • Foreign Militaries and Transgender Service (pdf) — Has the accommodation of trans servicemembers into other militaries, like the British, Israeli, Australian, and Canadian army, compromised military readiness? The study will also serve to assess what led to changing the trans ban and how those policies were changed.
  • Institutional Privacy Accommodations (pdf) — The Palm Center wants to investigate how fire and police departments that allow transgender individuals to serve are able to manage privacy issues, including providing restroom facilities and changing facilities.
  • Organizational Effectiveness and Transgender Inclusion (pdf) — Through this study, the Palm Center aims to elaborate on the above study to evaluate whether trans inclusion in domestic institutions that are comparable to the U.S. military has compromised organizational effectiveness.
  • Physical Standards and Transgender Service (pdf) — How has trans inclusion in world militaries, police and fire departments impacted readiness? Furthermore, how have these organizations adapted policies surrounding so-called physical standards to accommodate transgender inclusion? This study will aim to answer how it is possible to specifically welcome trans servicemembers and accommodate their needs while at the same time upholding existing standards.
  • Privacy in the U.S. Military (pdf) — Separating people by sex for the purposes of toileting and showering is not always possible in the military. The Palm Center wishes to ascertain what formal policies could be used to address the specific concerns of trans servicemembers and wider military servicemembers, as well as how those policies could be implemented with the least disruption to current administrative affairs.
  • Transgender Sports (pdf) — A number of world athletic bodies and local sporting institutions have begun to accommodate trans athletes. This study would assess how athletic associations have managed to revise their policies to address gender change, and the best practices that can facilitate transgender inclusion.
  • Transgender Medical Accommodation (pdf) –The Palm Center, in addition to its other medical study, wants to specifically determine how the U.S. military might serve the needs of transgender service members, including reassignment surgery and hormone therapy.
  • Uniform Regulations (pdf) — How have the world’s militaries, police and fire departments that allow transgender individuals changed their dress-code regulations to accommodate transgender inclusion and how could the U.S. military adapt existing policies while still upholding good order standards?
  • U.S. Military Accommodation of Serious Medical Conditions (pdf) — In addition to the medical studies outlined above, The Palm Center wants to determine how the U.S. military already accommodates service members who suffer under serious medical conditions such as cancer, diabetes and alcoholism. The researchers will be tasked with the job of evaluating policies about how institutions have coped with members having serious medical conditions, including how policies are put in place, and whether those accommodations have undermined readiness.

This new research builds on the Palm Center’s 14 year history of researching gay and lesbian servicemembers and their inclusion in the military. In total, this research is set to cost approximately $1.35 million and will be funded by grants provided by Wells Fargo Bank and the Tawani Foundation.

Earlier this year, Kristin Beck, A Navy veteran of 20 years, went public about her life in the military and subsequently coming out as a trans woman, shedding light on the life of trans servicemembers and also helping expose the discrimination they can face.

Image credit: Thinkstock.


Paul M.
Paul M4 years ago

October 06.

I would have hoped this topic would have attracted more than 39 votes in the two months it has been open. Why hasn't it?

Spencer Young
Spencer Young4 years ago

A soldier is a solider. It's an honor to have them protecting our freedom and doing good in the world. Thank you to the one and ALL

Paul C.
Paul C4 years ago

Does anyone know the percentage of the population is transgendered?

Jade N.
Jade N4 years ago

as far as i'm concerned, anyone and everyone who is willing to fight for our country should be equal

Sandra S.
Sandra S4 years ago

As a Canadian, this discussion reminds me of the huge controversies surrounding America's decisions to allow their Gay and Lesbian soldiers to serve openly, women to serve in combat units, and other hugely controversial and risky decisions that were being made after many other countries' military forces had made these changes uneventfully. Why must the US be so GD stubborn about its prejudices and lack of integration?

Lauren Berrizbeitia

I have to say my cynicism is at an all time high. We haven't been able to do a thing about protecting women from rape in the military or about treating them responsibly after rape or about prosecuting the rapists, we haven't saved gay servicemen from beatings...how will we insist that trans soldiers are treated fairly and respectfully when no one (except maybe straight, white officers with power) else is? This change- that all soldiers have the right to respect, privacy, and freedom from harassment and violence needs to start at the highest levels of the military and become the norm. When is that going to happen?

Vicky P.
Vicky P4 years ago

they are the same as any other solider

holly masih
.4 years ago

boom bye bye

Duane B.
.4 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Paul M.
Paul M4 years ago

John M. "I do not think I would issue a firearm" ... you surprised me ... I didn't know you were pro gun control.

Hormonal ups and downs are not new to every military force in the world that uses young men as recruits; hormonal time bombs.

“DrugFacts: … in the Military”

“… Although illicit drug use is lower among U.S. military personnel than among civilians, heavy alcohol and tobacco use, and especially prescription drug abuse, are much more prevalent ... The stresses of deployment during wartime … lack of confidentiality that deters many who need treatment from seeking it. Those with multiple deployments … are at greatest risk of developing substance use problems.”

“Military Not Doing Enough …” http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/2012/09/militarys-care-for-addicts-outdated-major-study-concludes.html

“It's been well-documented that the military has a significant problem with suicide, substance abuse and mental disorders in its ranks.”

I guess no-one in the military should be given a gun. All the above can cause a soldier to go off the rails … better keep them unarmed.

So, Trans hormone treatments aren’t really worth hanging your hat on as an excuse to discriminate. Ditto for diabetics' needs, by the way.