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.
Policies limiting transgender service in the U.S. military should be lifted given these data.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Alford, B., & Lee, S. J. (2016). Toward complete inclusion: Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender military service members after repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t tell. Social Work, 61(3), 257–265. https://doi.org/10.1093/sw/sww033.
Belkin, A., Ender, M. G., Frank, N., Furia, S. R., Lucas, G., Packard, G., et al. (2013). Readiness and DADT repeal: Has the new policy of open service undermined the military? Armed Forces & Society, 39(4), 587–601. https://doi.org/10.1177/0095327X12466248.
Bérubé, A. (2010). Coming out under fire: The history of gay men and women in World War II. North Carolina: Univ of North Carolina Press.
Blakemore, E. (2019, February 26). How women fought their way into the U.S. Armed Forces. Retrieved from https://www.history.com/news/women-fought-armed-forces-war-service. Accessed 22 June 2019.
Burks, D. J. (2011). Lesbian, gay, and bisexual victimization in the military: An unintended consequence of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”? American Psychologist, 66(7), 604–613. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0024609.
Burrelli, D. F., & Feder, J. (2010). Homosexuals and the US military: Current issues. Darby PA: DIANE Publishing.
Davis, E., Grifka, A., Williams, K., & Coffey, M. (2017). Workplace and gender relations survey of active duty members (report no. 2016–005). Alexandria, VA: Office of People Analytics Retrieved from https://www.sapr.mil/public/docs/reports/FY17_Annual/FY16_Annual_Report_on_Sexual_Assault_in_the_Military_Full_Report_Part2_4.pdf. Accessed 15 Jan 2019.
Department of Defense (DOD). (2019). Directive type memorandum (DTM)-19-004-military service by transgender persons and persons with Gender Dysphoria. Washington D.C: Office of the Deputy of Defense.
Downing, J., Conron, K., Herman, J. L., & Blosnich, J. R. (2018). Transgender and cisgender U.S. veterans have few health differences. Health Affairs, 37(7), 1160–1168. https://doi.org/10.1377/hlthaff.2018.0027.
Gates, G. J., & Herman, J. (2014). Transgender military service in the United States. UCLA School of Law: Williams Institute Retrieved from: https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wpcontent/uploads/Transgender-Military-Service-May-2014.pdf. Accessed 22 June 2019.
Goldbach, J. T., & Castro, C. A. (2016). Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) service members: Life after don’t ask, don’t tell. Current Psychiatry Reports, 18(6), 56–63. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11920-016-0695-0.
Kamarck, K. N. (2016). Women in combat: Issues for congress (no. CRS-7-5700, R42075). Congressional Research Service Washington United States.
Laurence, J. H., Milavec, B. L., Rohall, D. E., Ender, M. G., & Matthews, M. D. (2016). Predictors of support for women in military roles: Military status, gender, and political ideology. Military Psychology, 28(6), 488–497.
Okros, A., & Scott, D. (2015). Gender identity in the Canadian forces: A review of possible impacts on operational effectiveness. Armed Forces & Society, 41(2), 243–256. https://doi.org/10.1177/0095327X14535371.
Parker, K., Cilluffo, A., & Stepler, R. (2017, April 3). 6 facts about the U.S. military and its changing demographics. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/04/13/6-facts-about-the-u-s-military-and-its-changing-demographics/. Accessed 24 Sep 2019.
Pruitt, S. (2019). Once banned, then silenced: How Clinton’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy affected LGBT military. Retrieved from https://www.history.com/news/dont-ask-dont-tell-repeal-compromise (original work published April 28, 2018). Accessed 21 Sep 2019.
Qualtrics Labs Inc. (2005). Qualtrics lab Inc. Utah: Provo.
Reynolds, G.M. & Shendruk, A. (2018, April 24). Demographics of the U.S. Military. Council on Foreign Relations. Retrieved from: https://www.cfr.org/article/demographics-us-military. Accessed 22 Sep 2019.
Schaefer, Gereben, A., Plumb, R. I., Kadiyala, S., Kavanagh, J., Engel, C. C., Williams, K. M., & Kress, A. M. (2016). Assessing the implications of allowing transgender personnel to serve openly. RAND Corporation Retrieved from: https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR1530.html. Accessed 1 Sep 2019.
Segal, D. R., Segal, M. W., & Reed, B. J. (2015). Diversity and citizenship in modern military organization. Turkish Journal of Sociology, 35, 43–61. https://doi.org/10.16917/sd.2015.2.0022.
Sosin, K. (2019). The defense department is about to fire more than 13,700 trans people. The Advocate. Retrieved from https://www.advocate.com/transgender/2019/1/23/defense-dept-about-fire-more-13700-trans-people. Accessed 24 Sep 2019.
Suh, C. K. (2019). Reviewing a ban on transgender troops from an international perspective. Southwestern Journal of International Law, 25, 155–179.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
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). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13178-020-00437-x
- Transgender Military Service
- Transgender Military Support