Transgender-identified people are currently banned from serving in the U.S. military. In July 2015, the United States Department of Defense announced the formation of a “working group” charged with investigating a possible lifting or relaxation of the ban.
A Department of Defense memo in August 2015 established a timeline for changing anti-transgender policies. According to the timeline, transgender people could begin serving in the military as early as May 2016.
Transgender Health During and After Military Service
Researchers developed an anonymous online questionnaire designed to measure physical and mental health to explore differences between current and former soldiers.
Fifty-five trans-identified active-duty soldiers, as well as 51 transgender veterans, completed the survey. The active-duty group had an average age of 29.5, compared to an older average age of 44 among veterans.
Veterans were more likely to experience depression than active-duty soldiers, with 64.6% of transgender veterans experiencing depression. Just 30.9% of current transgender soldiers reported symptoms of depression. An additional 15.9% of veterans and 1.8% of active-duty soldiers had been diagnosed with a substance abuse problem.
No significant differences in health existed between the two groups, though veterans had a higher average body mass index (BMI). Advanced age and longer periods of military service were both correlated with more physical and mental health issues.
Are Transgender People ‘Fit’ for Military Service?
The study shows mental and physical health problems are more prevalent among transgender veterans than active-duty transgender soldiers. Because it did not compare transgender to cisgender service members, it is unclear whether the former has a higher rate of mental or physical health problems. The study’s authors say their research points to a relatively low rate of serious health issues, and further research is necessary.
- Brydum, S. (2015, August 26). U.S. transgender military man to end in May. Retrieved from http://www.advocate.com/transgender/2015/08/26/us-transgender-military-ban-end-may
- Hill, B. J., Bouris, A., Barnett, J. T., & Walker, D. (2016). Fit to serve? Exploring mental and physical health and well-being among transgender active-duty service members and veterans in the U.S. military. Transgender Health,1(1), 4-11. doi:10.1089/trgh.2015.0002
- Patterson, J. (2015, July 20). A quick end to military transgender exclusion. Retrieved from http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/civil-rights/248337-a-quick-end-to-military-transgender-exclusion
- Scott, E. (2015, August 7). HRC: Huckabee campaigning on hate with ban against transgender answer. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2015/08/07/politics/mike-huckabee-transgender-military-hrc/
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