Study: Transgender Service Members Face Widespread Discrimination

Twenty percent of those surveyed had served in the military; 29 percent of transgender women had served

While transgender people serve in the military at a rate double the general population, they nonetheless face discrimination during and after service, according to a new study released by the Williams Institute at UCLA.

“Still Serving in Silence: Transgender Service Members and Veterans in the National Transgender Discrimination Survey,” was authored by Jody L. Herman, Williams Institute Manager of Transgender Research and Jack Harrison-Quintana, Policy Institute Manager at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

“Despite the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ this study highlights the ongoing discrimination faced by transgender people who have served in the military,” said Herman. Nine percent of those who served reported that they were discharged on account of being transgender or gender non-conforming.

While congressional legislation does not prohibit transgender people from military service, the military’s medical code lays out regulations that can prevent transgender people from joining the military or serving openly. In this study, some transgender service members reported not serving openly for fear of discharge or verbal, physical, and sexual abuse. 

“Though it’s clear many transgender people want to and do serve our country in the armed forces, they are often met with discrimination in employment, housing, and health care post-service,” said Herman. Key findings include:

  • Veterans were more likely to have lost a job due to anti-transgender bias (36 percent) and/or to have not been hired for a job due to bias (53 percent) than non-veterans;
  • Within the workplace, veterans were more likely to have been harassed (54 percent) and to have survived physical (9 pecent) and sexual assault (8 percent) at work;
  • Veterans were also more likely to have ever experienced homelessness (21 percent). This figure is nearly three times higher than the general population lifetime rate of homelessness (7.4 percent).
  • While some veterans described positive experiences with VA health care services, others experienced problems, including being denied transition-related care and experiencing discrimination.
  • Some veterans described difficulty obtaining corrected military records to reflect their gender identity, causing problems in obtaining health care and in receiving retirement and disability payments.

The study utilized data collected through the National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS), which was conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. 6,456 transgender and gender non-conforming people in the United States reported on their experiences of discrimination and abuse at work, at home, in school and in the public sphere, amassing the largest transgender survey sample to date. The survey also asked respondents about their military service, whether they had been discharged due to anti-transgender bias, and their ability to update military discharge records.

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