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Study shows large number of transgender people in military regardless of policy

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Prior to 2011, the United States military had always excluded gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals from serving, consistently having the official view that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people are unfit for military service. On September 20, 2011, the U.S. military policy known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” came to an end, finally allowing gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals to serve openly in the U.S. military, though not transgender individuals.

U.S. military medical policies still exclude transgender people from serving openly in the U.S. armed forces. Due to these policies, any individuals already serving can be medically discharged if suspected of being transgender. With that said, how many transgender men and women are secretly serving, or have served in the U.S. military? A recent study out of Los Angeles claims to have the answer.

Based on new research that was released in May of this year, it is estimated that nearly 150,000 transgender individuals have either previously served, or are currently on active duty in the U.S. armed forces. The research is based on a study conducted by scholars at the Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law earlier this year.

The report, titled, “Transgender Military Service in the United States,” estimates that there are more then 15,000 transgender individuals that are either currently on active duty, or are currently serving in the Guard or Reserve forces in the US. In addition, an estimated 134,000 transgender individuals are either veterans or are retired from Guard or Reserve service.

Additional findings taken from the analyses also shows that an estimated 8,800 transgender adults are currently on active duty in the U.S. armed forces, and an estimated 6,700 transgender individuals are serving in the Guard or Reserve forces.

All together, the research estimates that 0.6% of all adults who report current or past service in the US armed forces are transgender.

The estimates are derived using data from the US Census Bureau’s "American Community Survey" and the "National Transgender Discrimination Survey," which was conducted by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality.

According to the research, Transgender individuals assigned female at birth are nearly three times more likely than all adult women, and those assigned male at birth are 1.6 times more likely than all adult men, to serve. Study co-author and Peter J. Cooper Public Policy Fellow, Jody Herman, notes,

“Our analyses are consistent with other research suggesting that transgender individuals are more likely than the general population to serve in the US military.”

Transgender veterans have formed organizations such as the Transgender American Veterans Association (TAVA), which advocates for transgender individuals to be allowed to serve in the military. With the new data recently released regarding the large number of transgender people serving in the U.S. military, one can’t help but wonder when U.S. military policies regarding transgender men and women will finally change.