Study Explores Health of Transgender Soldiers

Modern combat helicopters flying over waterA study published in Transgender Health suggests more research into transgender mental and physical health could undermine the notion that trans-identified people are unfit for military service.

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.

References:

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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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  • Mitch

    Mitch

    February 22nd, 2016 at 3:38 PM

    I wouldn’t say that they are unfit for service, but wow, I think that you would have to be pretty brave to do that.

  • Rob

    Rob

    February 23rd, 2016 at 10:26 AM

    Someone out there has to be the one to take the first step and I think that this would be an incredibly awesome person who decides to do it. I see no reason at all why they should not be able to serve if they are capable of the same mental and physical tests that any other soldier would have to pass. Sounds a little like discrimination to me.

  • verona

    verona

    February 24th, 2016 at 8:25 AM

    I would love to know if there are any benefits to being in the service because goodness knows everything that i see seems to imply that it is going to be bad for your health.

  • Lindsey M.

    Lindsey M.

    March 26th, 2016 at 6:45 AM

    Great article. I am an Army Apache Longbow (ironically the helicopter in the article photo) pilot, an Army Officer and I serve openly as transgender M2F. I can tell you that without a doubt in my mind and from personal experience we are not only fit to serve, we excell in many circumstances. I look forward to the ability of all Trans personnel currently serving to be able to serve openly.
    We are honored to serve the people of this nation.

  • Morgan S.

    Morgan S.

    March 26th, 2016 at 2:49 PM

    Unfit for service? Another bs tactic to later disapprove transgender persons to serve openly. I served 21 years as an army “motor sergeant” with numerous deployments, air assault, platoon sergeant and never once felt mentally incapable and depressed. Transgender people are as normal or not as any other person. So stop laying down the foundation for a policy that will not allow Transgender to serve.

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