SAN FRANCISCO, CA – A majority of military personnel surveyed in a new Pentagon-funded study support allowing transgender Americans to serve in the military, undercutting a key argument that the Trump administration has used to justify its reinstatement of a transgender service ban last year. In taking that step, the president said he had concluded that allowing transgender people to serve “erodes military readiness and unit cohesion,” the same rationale that was used against allowing service by gay, lesbian, and bisexual Americans, but which was found to be baseless. The “unit cohesion” argument assumes that unit mates won’t accept or trust LGBT peers and that the cohesion that’s critical to mission readiness will therefore deteriorate.
But the new, peer-reviewed study, “Support for Transgender Military Service from Active Duty United States Military Personnel,” contradicts that claim, revealing that 66% of those surveyed back inclusive policy. “Findings suggest broad support for transgender military service across all branches of service and military ranks,” the authors state. They conclude that “transgender military service was widely supported among active-duty heterosexual and LGB cisgender military personnel, indicating that from the perspective of service members themselves, the ban should be lifted.”
Palm Center’s director, Aaron Belkin, said the new findings lay bare the dishonest rationale the Trump administration is using to rationalize discrimination.
“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,” he said. “If the military really cares about cohesion, it should read the research it funds or stop wasting taxpayer money.”
The subject population consisted of 486 active-duty, non-transgender service members from the four major branches of the U.S. military (transgender respondents were excluded so as to measure only the sentiment of their peers to help assess whether distrust could harm unit cohesion). Polls of the general population have consistently found that transgender service is supported by a similar share of the American public, with a Palm Center polling average, based on six major polls conducted last year, of 67%. All five military Chiefs of Staff have testified that inclusive policy has caused no readiness issues, with Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley having reported“precisely zero” problems resulting from transgender service.