Soldiers that are Transgender

High School ・Sociology ・APA ・15 Sources

Although research has been undertaken to address interactions between lesbians and gay groups serving in the US army, the lives of transgender service members participating in service have not been very focused. Transgender people transgress the dual perception of sex by drifting away from social expectations linked to sex at birth. The Department of Defense has set guidelines and policies that represent a dual view of gender and emphasis on compliance. It is argue that people who are capable of gender variation are well qualified to represent their country. Due to the outcomes related to transgender military personnel on active duty, the sample of this study is small and includes nine members from the clandestine service and two members from the international service who wished to narrate their experiences from a different point. The purpose of snowball sampling was to find existing reserve transgender and active duty service members. By use of both questionnaires and telephone interviews, data was gathered from transgender service staff who are on active duty across America and two from multinational militaries that permit transgender individuals to work. Collection of data focused on the general experiences of the respondents together with questions about suggestions for change in policy, workplace discrimination and their opinions regarding the overrule of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy” (Araiza and Woods, 2012). Findings of this survey contribute to a developing source of information regarding experiences of transgender individuals in the armed forces of the U.S. and the significance of reversing discriminatory policies of workplace that have adverse effects on transgender service members.

Keywords: transgender, system, intimidation, Armed Forces, United States, total institution


Evidence from academic studies and individual sources show that transgender people encounter discrimination, stereotyping, and bias everywhere in the society, both military and civilian (Kattari et al, 2016).Organizations that generate scholarships created to improve the quality of public discussions regarding important and controversial issues of public policy are working with both public decision makers and private persons in dialogues on how transgender individuals are and the reason they are entitled to fair treatment. Particularly, they focus in places of work, both industry, and military. Currently, the number of transgender individuals serving in active service or within the Reserve or Guard services is estimated to be 15,500.It is also approximated that there are about 134,300 retirees or veterans from reserve or guard service (Nicholson, 2012). Transgender is a big umbrella expression that relates to people who identify themselves with a gender which does not correspond with their birth-assigned sex. Many transgender people change from either female to male or vice versa with the assistance of surgery, hormone therapy or counseling. Other transgender people do not wish to use therapeutic approaches but do portray themselves in manners that are contrary to conventional gender expectations. Regarding the military service, it was discovered that over half of the patients of the MTF in their service had worked respectively with or without changing genders. More recently, revelations by the National Transgender Discrimination Survey showed that transgender people in the US are twice more probable to work within the Armed Forces, unlike the ordinary citizens. In 1993, the then US president Bill Clinton signed the policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” which was aimed at allowing bisexuals, lesbians, and gays to work in the military for as long as they remained secret (Araiza and Woods, 2012). Members of service were not permitted to be discussed or questioned regarding their sexual orientation. The policy stipulated that service members who belonged to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) group could be fired from the armed forces if they sought or participated in homosexual acts, confessed to being bisexual or gay, or tried to enter into marriage with a partner of the same gender (Kattari et al, 2016).

During the administration of Obama, the policy of DADT was formally revoked in 2011, enabling bisexual, lesbian and gay members to service to freely work in the armed forces of the US (Moran, 2012).Nonetheless, detractors of the transgender military service police into the army have introduced the fact that the revocation of the DADT policy was a civil right milestone for the bisexual, lesbian and gay people. Also, transgender individuals have been excluded. Other people are compelled to continue working secretly instead of risking losing employment. If discovered, they undergo the embarrassment of a military eject together with a likelihood of losing benefits. Some able-bodied recruits of transgender are sent away before they are offered a chance to enroll within any armed forces branch. Transgender enrolled staff also reveal anxiety over double standards within the military (Kattari et al, 2016). This study includes the literature review of issues experienced by a transgender warrant officer, officer, and enlisted staff the American armed forces. Although due to the small sample size it is not possible to generalize the wider population of active duty military transgender personnel, every firsthand narration indicates the problems faced daily at the workplace. This study aims to ascertain four things; First, why they chose to work in the military. Two, how they navigate their identity of gender in the military gender expectations. Three, whether and how the DADT has affected them. Four, the forms of discriminatory acts affect their work. The study included tow multinational transgender service members who provided their understanding from an entirely different point.

Literature Review

Levelling the ground following DADT

For a long time, most studies exploring harassment and discriminatory practices in the military dealt mainly with enrolled bisexuals, gays, lesbians, and women. A group of empirical and theoretical training commenced following the implementation of the DADT by the president in 1993 (Miller,2012).During the past, major studies funded by several organizations gathered data from transgender service members in the military, both retired and active. This data has ended up as published studies that form part of this literature review. Due to policies of discriminatory that still exist in the protocol of military regarding transgender personnel, reaching the active people on duty is challenging for studies. Recently, a former Navy SEAL who respectfully worked for 20 years before revealing himself as transgender, emphasized policies in the military prohibiting transgender people from military work (Hill et al 2016). Additionally, prominent cases like the court-martial of Bradly Manning have challenged numerous policies that have negative impacts on the daily lives of enrolled transgender military workers.

Among the earliest research about transgender people include works by Tobias (2012) whose sample comprised of 11 MTF transgender soldiers, 4 of them being veterans at the time of the study. Part of his discovery indicates that the individuals in the research were patriotic and honored their duty. Part of the earliest research about transgender people in the military include studies done by sample comprises 11 MTF transgender personnel during which 4 of them were veterans. Part of the outcome of this study indicates that the individuals in the study were patriotic and respected their duties, hence wishing to work for their nation. Some participants of the survey embraced the idea of companionship with fellowmen. Others purposed to flee sluggish employment economy or unhappy situations at home. The most crucial discovery was the individual’s wish to display their masculinity in a social institution that known to be largely dominated by males in the American society. He reported that their enrollment was a means of cleansing their cross-gender identification. Nevertheless, as the general outcome of the survey also indicates, transgender personnel joined the military on the same basis as the average recruit. In 200, the Inspector General’s office of the Defense Department performed a study among 71.4750 service member on active duty from the entire branches in the military departments about the particular policies of gay behavior. The data gathered was analyzed to try and improve the understanding of military personnel’s knowledge of intimidation in the military. Most of the participants about 62.% indicated no knowledge of harassment, but, approximately over a third of the members reported that they were aware of a person who had faced intimidation due to their sex alignment. The American army said the most cases of bullying awareness of the entire branches of the workforce. It was not surprising that junior recruited staff recorded the most knowledge of harassment, mainly female. The scholar concluded that bullying happens in the typical course of events related to service in the military. Furthermore, DADT obstructed factual information regarding a person’s sexual alignment from showing. Gill-Peterson (2014) argues that the conventional dual perception of body offer a powerful effect on current procedures and policies of the military. The male-aligned body is the level against which the military measure everything in the background of the military. When borders between female and male blur, challenges are introduced through problems that obscurity has for today’s military medical and behavioral codes that are set by the law (Johnson et al, 2012). Particularly concerning gender identity issues, policies addressing DADT and lesbian/gay problems focus solely on sexuality. One wonders how intersex and transgender identities will be handled in the military following the overturn of DADT`. The rule of DADT only referred to lesbian, bisexual and gay practices and orientations. It did not refer to gender expression and identity.

Total Institution and Gender Diversity

The total system is fundamentally an enclosed, isolate social process with the principal aim of controlling most features lives of its participants (Stryker and Whittle, 2013). Typical examples include military training camps, boarding schools, mental hospitals, and prisons. The American armed forces is an organization that looks forward to people renouncing all personality to preserve the military compound and sustaining military regulations and rules. Anyone who participates in military work is expected to comply with regards to behavior, dress and even particularly gender display. Nevertheless, in the current military, the diversification of people who enlist considers the need to add, alter and eliminate policies to suit this total institution’s always changing dynamics. Today, there are both medical and psychological regulations that hinder transgender individuals from being recruited and working in the American military (Weatherbys et al, 2017). For a better understanding of discrimination at work experienced by transgender members of service, the dual construction of sex and gender, along with a discussion about the military’s hyper-masculine nature will function as the theoretical basis for this study. Discrimination in the working environment is a problem that continues to afflict the armed forces in the US. Even though DADT was formally revoked by the administration of Obama in 2011, transgender members were not acknowledged or accommodated. In the social aspect, discrimination at workplace experienced by transgender people within the military can be explained partly by analyzing the binary gender construction. Culture in the western societies defines gender as comprising two categories, female or male. People are expected to comply with particular roles of gender through their general display which includes daily interactions (Tobias, 2012). Additionally, the identity of gender must be oriented towards the biological dual based on the genitalia, chromosomes, and hormones that a person is born. Gender expressions and identities of particular transgender people do not correspond to socially dictated norms of gender-related to their given sex at birth. Hence they are vulnerable to policies of discrimination that hinder recruiting and working in the military. During recruitment, the members of service are required to be physically examined where confirmation of genital surgery can lead to immediate disqualification (Stryker and Whittle, 2013). At recruitment, if a person admits being transgender, the institution would regard a disqualifying psychiatric status. During active duty, transgender members of service undergo psychological and medical regulations such as not confessing to being transgender and not physically transitioning. Disobeying these rules can lead to discharge or prosecution and sometimes both. According to a report by Sexual orientation and U.S. military personnel policy (2012), hyper masculinity is described as a concept that expresses stereotypic, extreme and exaggerated masculine behaviors and attributes including violence, aggression, control, dominance and hatred for femininity. In regards to transgender people, the identity of gender that is perceived as not corresponding to conventional norms of gender is applied as a reason for denying them to work. It leads to a whole institution build on attributes of hyper-masculine, especially conformity to conventional norms of gender. Consequently, workplace discriminatory is increased against active duty and potential recruits of transgender persons. The military should revoke its outright ban since transgender individuals have shown for a long time that they can work in the American military. Theoretically, it is practical to have a new definition of gender as a nondual social construct that will assist to eliminate legitimized and ingrained policies of discriminatory at places of work in the armed forces of the US( Sexual orientation and military service., 2012).


This study included a total of 12 military personnel on active duty, and it took 11 months to complete. During the survey,9 of the respondents were working in the National Guard, Air Force or Army. Two of the respondents were working in the Royal Canadian Airforce and Royal Army respectively. Every individual defendant was offered a pseudonym, and all other identifying information was disguised to maintain anonymity. Collection of data involved questionnaires and telephone interviews. By employing nonprobability sampling, respondents were enlisted through snowball and purposive sampling methods. The primary investigator contacted active duty members of service, the support group for LGBT, Allies for Respect, Partners, their allies and their families. This person distributed request for respondents via chat rooms of transgender and other internet sources. Individuals who were interested then contacted the primary investigator via email to indicate their interest in being interviewed. Telephone interviews consumed between 20 min and one hour. Some of the research questions asked include the following: Why did you choose to work in the military? What are your experiences both associated with your gender identity as a reservist or active member? How do you presently work out your character of sex in the military's gender expectations? Have you been affected by the end of DADT? Has any person in the army had any suspicion of your being transgender and blamed you? Eight people took part in telephone interviews, whereas three respondents communicated through email. Only seven telephone interviews were successfully recorded and transcribed. They were later uploaded on NVivo for analysis

Limitations of the Study

One of the limitations of the survey is the inherent qualities and application of purposive snowball sampling method which does not need random sampling. Therefore outcomes cannot be put in general to the entire transgender population of active duty persons. More particularly, the sample of working transgender individuals did not represent the transgender population based on age, disability, class, ethnicity and, race considering the size of the sample. Secondly, transgender persons are not permitted to work in the open within the US armed forces. Hence, it was challenging to enlist respondents from the military troops in the US because they feared being discharged from their present positions. Because of this central problem, getting a bigger sample size was impossible.


The armed forces in the US have not adequately addressed the issues of gender intimidation and discrimination within the workplace in the military .As revealed by the interviews, there was evidence of-of practices intimidation and discrimination at the institution towards the transgender service members. Respondents talked about several reasons that drove them to choose military work. They also narrated their encounters either practices of intimidation and discrimination while working in the military. The two multinational respondents shared particular insights and experiences that they had. Respondents provided may reasons as t why they chose to work for the military. Some of them mentioned reasons such as getting stable employment, obtaining educational benefits and the capacity to travel and train in a new trade. Even though the data could not be put in general for the entire population of transgender people, it was discovered that that flight to hyper masculinity could be the principal explanation why some people joined the military. As revealed by the study, active transgender people on active duty not only lack protection but are usually faced with institutional, social and personal obstacles daily. Though each story was different, most of the participants had undergone some intimidation within the place of work from their colleagues and senior.

Discussion and Conclusion

In 2012, the head of Naval Operations talked about the significance diversity and the role of inclusion in the Navy's future success (Johnson et al, 2012) He indicated that institutions that embrace diversity are reported to perform better than those that do not. He stated in his official blog that gender should not hinder people to serve, which completely encourages the introduction of the female in a once male-dominated institution. The inclusion equity in gender can go a long way in addressing all kinds of differences including transgender service members. A new policy that could enable the female to work in positions of direct ground combat could re-open many positions that had been unavailable to women members of service by discriminatory professional standards (Espejo, 2012). As emerging military policies handle issues mainly aiming inclusion, transgender members of service, continually become ejected from military work by their gender alignment. Transgender people must be provided similar opportunities to be recruited and work freely in progressively gender-neutral armed forces of the U.S. Even though narratives displayed in the study differ from individual to individual, the sample of the military workers on active duty indicate that discrimination at workplace happens on numerous scales. Other militaries worldwide have changed policies to enable transgender individuals to work including United Kingdom, New Zealand, Thailand, Sweden, Spain, Netherlands, Israel, Czech Republic, Canada, Belgium and Australia (Kattari et al, 2016).

The people who took part in the survey indicated how unhappy working life could be an attempt to avoid mentioning transition issues, gender identity and capacity to perform duties by sex. Traumatic consequences of discrimination include losing both employment and benefits that accompany the military service. As revealed in the survey, people chains of command handle transgender service members in different ways. Some show more inclusiveness than others based on their interpretation of gender identity policies. Consequently, there erupts chaos, confusion and uneven enforcement about the application of systems across the military organization. Due to the tiny sample size, it was challenging to conclude whether or not MTF’s or FTM’s are better placed to work in the military. It was also discovered that chain of command controlled somewhat whether or not the respondents handled workplace discrimination. The study confirms the fact that there is a lot of confusion and misinformation both in military and civil populations regarding transgender people. Education is key to the system of overcoming discrimination and bias aimed towards transgender people (Dietert et al, 2017). Concentrating on enhanced knowledge of the diversity in the category of transgender is an appropriate first step. For policies controlling transgender service in the trained medical workers, transgender organizations, and activists as well as their military partners to consistently support the transition. The Defense Department must give issues around the treatment of transgender people in the army priority. One domain of concern that requires being dealt with is employment and retention (Tobias, 2012). Existing policies that hinder transgender people from recruitment and work must be eradicated. The American military can learn a lot by examining the systems applied by other militaries across the world that permit transgender individuals to work freely. The Department of Defense should make efforts to create new procedures that encourage and preserve a secure working place for transgender members of service in all branches. These policies would offer substantial professionalism and management. Also, they would act as tools for decreasing discrimination and provide members of service the capacity to obtain these recommendations. The creation of policies that encourage the flow of gender norms would develop a working environment that is free from intimidation and discrimination.


Araiza, W., & Woods, D. (2012). Understanding the repeal of don't ask don't tell. [Boston, MA]: Aspatore Books.

Dietert, M., Dentice, D., & Keig, Z. (2017). Addressing the Needs of Transgender Military Veterans: Better Access and More Comprehensive Care. Transgender Health, 2(1), 35-44.

Espejo, R. (2012). Transgender people. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Greenhaven Press.

Gill-Peterson, J. (2014). The Technical Capacities of the Body: Assembling Race, Technology, and Transgender. TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, 1(3), 402-418.

Hill, B., Bouris, A., Barnett, J., & Walker, D. (2016). Fit to Serve? Exploring Mental and Physical Health and Well-Being Among Transgender Active-Duty Service Members and Veterans in the U.S. Military. Transgender Health, 1(1), 4-11.

Johnson, J., Ham, C., Goodwin, G., & Bryant, B. (2012). Report of the comprehensive review of the issues associated with a repeal of "Don't ask, don't tell". [Washington, D.C.]: Dept. of Defense.

Kattari, S., Whitfield, D., Walls, N., Langenderfer-Magruder, L., & Ramos, D. (2016). Policing Gender Through Housing and Employment Discrimination: Comparison of Discrimination Experiences of Transgender and Cisgender LGBQ Individuals. Journal Of The Society For Social Work And Research, 7(3), 427-447.

Miller, D. (2012). Gays in the military. Detroit: Greenhaven Press.

Moran, M. (2012). Congress Decides Gay People Can Serve Openly in Military. Psychiatric News, 46(1), 12-26.

Nicholson, A. (2012). Fighting to serve. Chicago, Illinois: Chicago Review Press.

Sexual orientation and military service. (2012). Memphis, Tenn.

Sexual orientation and U.S. military personnel policy. (2010). Santa Monica.

Stryker, S., & Whittle, S. (2013). The Transgender Studies Reader. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis.

Tobias, S. (2012). Policy Issues Affecting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Families. University of Michigan Press.

Weatherby, J., Arceneaux, C., Leithner, A., Reed, I., Timms, B., & Zhang, S. (2017). The Other World. Milton: Taylor and Francis.

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