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Support for Transgender Military Service from Active Duty United States Military Personnel



Most transgender individuals are banned from serving in and joining the U.S. military. Historically, exclusions and limits have been placed on women, people of color, and sexual minority people seeking to serve and advance within the U.S. military. However, both history and prior research demonstrate that diversity contributes to social and institutional advancement within both U.S. and international militaries.


We used an adapted respondent-driven sampling (RDS) approach to recruit transgender and cisgender heterosexual and LGB active duty military members in a first-of-its-kind study funded by the Department of Defense. We recruited 540 active duty service members serving one of the four major branches of the U.S. military between August 2017 and March 2018. We examined data from 486 heterosexual cisgender and LGB cisgender service members to understand their support for transgender people serving in the U.S. military.


Findings indicate broad support for transgender military service across all four branches of the military and military ranks, with some statistically significant differences in support emerging by gender, sexual orientation, and race/ethnicity.


Results suggest that the ban, in part, based on a belief that transgender service members degrade unit readiness, contradicts our findings of broad support for transgender service among active duty service members.

Policy Implications

Policies limiting transgender service in the U.S. military should be lifted given these data.

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Correspondence to Shannon L. Dunlap.

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Dunlap, S.L., Holloway, I.W., Pickering, C.E. et al. Support for Transgender Military Service from Active Duty United States Military Personnel. Sex Res Soc Policy 18, 137–143 (2021).

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  • Transgender Military Service
  • Transgender Military Support
  • Military
  • Policy
  • LGBT
  • Diversity