Challenging Transgender Exclusion from Military Service: Trans ADSM report fewer lifetime health problems than trans vets

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    May 03, 2016 2:13 PM GMT
    Fit to Serve? Exploring Mental and Physical Health and Well-Being Among Transgender Active-Duty Service Members and Veterans in the U.S. Military

    Published in Volume: 1 Issue 1: January 13, 2016


    Purpose: Although transgender people are currently excluded from enlistment and discharged from service based on medical and psychological fitness policies, the current mental and physical health of transgender active-duty U.S. military personnel and veterans is poorly understood. The purpose of the current study was to investigate the military histories, lifetime mental and physical health diagnoses, and transgender transition-related health of transgender active-duty service members (ADSM) and veterans.

    Methods: Participants were recruited through private LGBT military and veteran organizational listservs, snowball sampling, and in-person recruitment to complete an anonymous and confidential self-administered online questionnaire.

    Conclusion: Our data represent the first descriptive statistics of lifetime mental and physical health issues among transgender ADSM and veterans. Data indicate that transgender ADSM report fewer lifetime mental and physical health problems than transgender veterans. Taken together, our findings suggest that more research, specifically among transgender ADSM, is needed to challenge the exclusion of transgender persons from U.S. military service based on the presumption of poor mental or physical health.

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    May 03, 2016 2:17 PM GMT
    On June 8, 2015, the American Medical Association (AMA) adopted a formal policy stating that there was no medical rationale for excluding transgender individuals from openly serving in the U.S. military. In so doing, the AMA joined scholars, advocates, and military personnel questioning the medical and psychological fitness policies used to prohibit transgender persons from service. Although current policy restrictions exclude transgender people from enlistment and serving openly as transgender, population-level data suggest that up to 15,500 transgender people are active-duty service members (ADSM) or in the National Guard or Reserve forces. In addition, data from the National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS) suggest that transgender people are twice more likely to serve in the military than members of the general population.

    ...Department of Defense's current “Medical Standards for Appointment, Enlistment, or Induction in the Military Services” bar service of any person with a “Current or history of psychosexual conditions (302) including but not limited to transsexualism, exhibitionism, transvestism, voyeurism, and other paraphilia”...

    ...having to conceal one's gender identity itself was a significant source of distress. These findings are consistent with previous research on LGB veterans who served under DADT, which found that concealment was positively associated with experiences of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)...

    ...Our findings are consistent with qualitative research with transgender ADSM, which has found that transgender personnel are out and find acceptance among some units and commanding officers. This pattern also has been identified in research with LGB ADSM and veterans, where studies indicated that many LGB personnel were out and accepted in their units and that disclosure of sexual orientation is associated with greater unit cohesion, morale, and task completion. For example, a recent study indicated that the DADT repeal appears to have had an overall positive impact on the military....

    ...An estimated 18 countries currently allow transgender men and women to openly serve in the military.2,40 In March 2015, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (AW/NAC) Mike Stevens indicated that transgender people should be allowed to serve “if they meet the Navy's standards.”41 More recently, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter recently announced that the military anticipates lifting the ban on transgender service at the conclusion and recommendation of the Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness working group investigation...
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    May 03, 2016 2:32 PM GMT
    LGBT advocates were elated when Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced that the Pentagon intended to lift the military’s longstanding ban on transgender members, saying that the current policy was an “outdated, confusing, inconsistent approach that’s contrary to our value of individual merit.” Nine months later, the transgender community is still waiting for the department to make its move.