Today, President Biden signed an executive order ending the ban on transgender military service. The directive instructs the Department of Defense to reinstate the 2016 policies and guidelines that allowed transgender people to serve openly. The Trump administration repealed the open service policy in 2017.
Research shows that many transgender people have served in the military and that diversity in the armed forces enhances readiness and strengthens cohesion:
- A 2014 report from the Williams Institute estimated 15,500 transgender adults are serving in the U.S. military, including 8,800 on active duty and 6,700 in the National Guard or Reserves.
- Transgender people are about twice as likely to have served in the military than the general population.
- Transgender people assigned female at birth are nearly three times as likely to serve as cisgender women.
- A 2018 article found that there are 163,000 transgender veterans in the U.S. The mental and physical health of transgender veterans is similar to cisgender veterans.
- Research commissioned by the Pentagon found broad support for transgender military service across all four branches of the military and military ranks.
- A 2020 study by the Palm Center found that barring transgender people from serving harms the military by threatening recruitment, retention, morale, and unit cohesion.
The new policy will also ensure that transgender service members have access to health care, including gender-affirming care.
"Transgender people have long served in the military, even at rates that equal or exceed their cisgender peers," said Jody L. Herman, Scholar of Public Policy at the Williams Institute. "Ending the ban impacts thousands of active-duty service members, and opens avenues for those considering military service."
The Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, a think tank on sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy, is dedicated to conducting rigorous, independent research with real-world relevance.