Transgender soldiers

New studies show that transgender civilians enlist in the military at twice the rate of the non-transgender population, but that transgender veterans are 20 times more likely to commit suicide. These findings are discussed in today’s Mother Jones, excerpted below:

“Transgender soldiers and sailors largely fly under the radar, but they are hardly uncommon.images-4In a recent surveyby the Harvard Kennedy School’s LGBTQ Policy Journal20 percent of transgender people contacted said they had served in the military—that’s twice the rate of the general population. A 2011 study estimates there are nearly 700,000 transgender individuals (about three people per thousand) living in the United States. Meanwhile, theAmerican Journal of Public Health (AJPH) is scheduled to release a report today, which drawsfrom Department of Veterans Affairs data, showing that the number of veterans accepting treatment for transgender health issues has doubled in the past decade. (While viewing the full report requires a subscription, an abstract should be available online as of today.)

“These two new peer-reviewed studies indicate that, beyond being discriminatory, the military’s current policy starves the armed services of some of their likeliest recruits, and puts transgender people who serve at greater risk of discrimination, homelessness, and assault than those who don’t.

“The Harvard study, “Still Serving in Silence,” relies on statistics compiled by the National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS). It emphasizes that transgender veterans and service members face high rates of job, housing, and medical discrimination. Breaking down the responses between transgender veteran/service members and transgender civilians, the study found that the military respondents were more likely to be fired (36 vs. 24 percent), evicted (14 vs. 10 percent), and refused medical treatment (24 vs. 18 percent) than civilians.

“Civil rights groups have seized upon these findings to push the Pentagon to allow transgender personnel to serve openly, as they do in the armed forces of Canada, Thailand, Israel, and certain other countries. Darlene Nipper, deputy executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, which collected the survey data along with the NTDS, said in a press release, “It’s wrong that these brave men and women—who sacrifice so much through their service to our nation—should have to fight for their rights both as active military and then as veterans.”


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