The repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” liberated gay and lesbian servicemembers from their closets but not transgender servicemembers, according to a new study.
The research, “Still Serving in Silence: Transgender Servicemembers and Veterans” comes nearly two years after the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
That policy had required gay servicemembers to hide their sexual orientation and was intended to stop military officers from asking about sexual orientation.
Transgender people are not barred by congressional legislation from military service, but the military medical code sets out regulations that can prevent them from signing up or serving openly.
The research showed that transgender Americans serve in the military at a high rate – 20 percent of those who participated in the NTDS had been in the Armed Forces. About 10 percent of the general population serves in the military.
The survey also showed that transgender servicemembers – or veterans – were less likely to be out than transgender civilians.
About 9 percent of transgender servicemembers who served openly reported being discharged, according to Herman.
The survey included personal statements from transgender Americans who served, who were refused entry into the military and who still want to enlist. “I am a patriotic and God-fearing 21-year-old male (of transsexual history) from a military family,” one young man wrote. “I want to serve my country badly, and think about this constantly.”
The study contains many reports of harassment, beatings, sexual assaults and institutional discrimination.
After their service, many transgender veterans were “met with discrimination in employment, housing and health care post-service,” said Herman.
“Still Serving in Silence” found:
• Transgender veterans were more likely to have lost a job due to discrimination than non-veterans.
• Within the workplace, transgender veterans were more likely to have been harassed than non-veterans.
• Transgender veterans were more likely than non-veterans to attain some college education, but actually less likely to have graduated.
• Transgender veterans were more likely than non-veterans to be evicted from their homes due to bias and to experience homelessness. The rate of homelessness for transgender veterans was 21 percent – three times the general population’s rate.
The researchers noted, “This high rate … is not surprising, given that veterans of all gender identities are disproportionately represented in the U.S. homeless population.” Nearly one in seven homeless adults is a veteran.
• A majority of transgender veterans go to non-VA clinics for health care and were more likely to be refused medical treatment due to bias.
“Still Serving in Silence” is based on data from the National Transgender Discrimination Survey conducted by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality. NGLTF Policy Institute manager Jack Harrison-Quintana and Jody L. Herman of the Williams Institute at UCLA released the paper.