Ban on Transgender Service Members Ignores Research, APA Says

Close-up of American soldier holding a miniature American flag.In the summer of 2017, President Donald Trump announced via Twitter that transgender soldiers would no longer be able to serve in the military. His announcement raised questions about what would happen to transgender service members currently on duty. Many people wondered how the ban would affect insurance for transgender health services.

In October of 2017, a federal judge in the District Court for the District of Columbia temporarily blocked the transgender service ban. The judge determined the ban was likely motivated by a general disapproval of transgender people and was therefore unconstitutional.

In March of 2018, President Trump released a memo altering the terms of his proposed ban. He announced trans soldiers currently in the military could continue serving. However, the military could require them to serve under the gender they were assigned at birth.

According to the White House memo, “…transgender persons with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria—individuals who the policies state may require substantial medical treatment, including medications and surgery—are disqualified from military service except under certain limited circumstances.” The memo gives the Pentagon discretion to deviate from the rule.

The APA’s Response to the Transgender Ban

On March 26, 2018, the American Psychological Association (APA) released a response to President Trump’s ban. The statement said attempts to ban transgender soldiers from the military promoted stigma and discrimination.

“The American Psychological Association is alarmed by the administration’s misuse of psychological science to stigmatize transgender Americans and justify limiting their ability to serve in uniform and access medically necessary health care.”

“Substantial psychological research shows that gender dysphoria is a treatable condition, and does not, by itself, limit the ability of individuals to function well and excel in their work, including in military service. The science is clear that individuals who are adequately treated for gender dysphoria should not be considered mentally unstable. Additionally, the incidence of gender dysphoria is extremely low,” said the statement in part.

A 2008 resolution by the APA’s governing Council of Representatives supports full equality for transgender people.

Research on Transgender Troops in the Military

The White House argues letting transgender troops to serve openly could allow them to bypass gender-based fitness requirements and certain mental health standards. The White House has previously argued providing health care to transgender troops is too expensive or too difficult.

A 2016 RAND study challenges those claims. It estimates transition-related health care would cost between $2.4 million to $8.4 million each year. The military’s overall budget for health care is $6.28 billion. In other words, transition-related care would cost a tenth of a percent of the total health care budget.

The study says the effects on military deployment would also be low. It estimates 24-130 trans people would need deployment restrictions each year due to medical needs. Meanwhile, over 50,000 cisgender service members need deployment restrictions each year.

An estimated 2,000 and 11,000 active-duty service members are transgender. Since details of the ban are still being negotiated, the number of transgender service members who will leave the military is unclear. There is no current research on how many potential recruits the military has turned away due to their gender identity.


  1. American Psychological Association. (2018, March 26). APA statement regarding transgender individuals serving in military [Press release]. Retrieved from
  2. Judge blocks Trump’s ban on transgender troops in military. (2017, October 30). New York Times. Retrieved from
  3. Transgender troops: Fit to serve. (2016, August 18). Rand Review. Retrieved from
  4. Trump approves new limits on transgender troops in the military. (2018, March 24). New York Times. Retrieved from
  5. The White House, Office of the Press Secretary (2018, March 23). Presidential memorandum for the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Homeland Security regarding military service by transgender individuals [Press release]. Retrieved from

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  • Robin

    May 2nd, 2018 at 12:15 PM

    The APA is putting more stigma on the topic than anyone! Being transgender is NOT a mental illness that needs treatment, yet the APA seems to think so.

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