A study funded by the Department of Defense has found widespread support for transgender people in the military, contradicting one of the Trump administration’s key arguments for the trans ban.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that 66 percent of respondents supported inclusion of trans people in the military.
“Findings indicate broad support for transgender military service across all four branches of the military and military ranks, with some statistically significant differences in support emerging by gender, sexual orientation, and race/ethnicity,” says an online abstract of the study, “Support for Transgender Military Service From Active Duty United States Military Personnel,” published in the journal Sexuality Research and Social Policy.
“Results suggest that the ban, in part, based on a belief that transgender service members degrade unit readiness, contradicts our findings of broad support for transgender service among active duty service members. Policies limiting transgender service in the U.S. military should be lifted given these data.”
Donald Trump, in enacting the ban, said the presence of trans people in the military “erodes military readiness and unit cohesion.” This was “the same rationale that was used against allowing service by gay, lesbian, and bisexual Americans, but which was found to be baseless,” notes a press release from the Palm Center, a think tank that focuses on military personnel policy, especially as it affects LGBTQ people. It was not involved in the study.
The study was based on data gathered from 486 active-duty service members recruited by researchers between August 2017 (a month after the ban was first announced) and March 2018. The respondents were all cisgender, so as to measure only how trans service members’ cis peers feel about them, and were a mix of heterosexual, gay, lesbian, and bisexual.
The results mirror the findings of surveys of the general public, according to the Palm Center. In six major polls last year, an average of 66 percent of respondents supported military service by trans people. Leaders of all military branches and of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have also said a trans-inclusive policy causes no harm to readiness.
“This research, which was supported by the Pentagon itself, gives the lie to the claim that transgender Americans disrupt the cohesion or readiness of the U.S. military,” said Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center, in the press release. “If the military really cares about cohesion, it should read the research it funds or stop wasting taxpayer money.”
The Modern Military Association of America, which advocates for LGBTQ service members and veterans, also commented on the study.
“What really matters for military service is whether or not you are capable and qualified to serve — not your gender identity. This survey shows that the far majority of servicemembers know this to be true,” MMAA Interim Executive Director and Air Force veteran Jennifer Dane said in a press release. “The excuses used to try and justify Trump’s transgender military ban have been proven wrong time and time again. It’s time this administration abandon discrimination and start supporting all of the brave American patriots who serve our nation — including those who happen to be transgender.”