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Trans Veterans Just As Healthy As Cisgender Veterans, New Study Finds

A new report shows that trans veterans have identical mental and physical health outcomes to other members of the U.S. military.

According to UCLA’s The Williams Institute, the health of transgender people who have served in the armed forces is “similar to cisgender veterans.” The pro-LGBTQ think tank claimed that “the only difference” between the two groups was that “transgender veterans had higher odds of having at least one disability, such as a debility in vision, cognition, mobility, self-care, or independent living.”

Those findings fly in the face of claims made by the Trump administration affirming its intention to ban transgender people from serving openly in the military. In a 44-page document released in March, the White House claimed that people who “require or have undergone gender transition are disqualified.”

In the policy memo first leaked by INTO, officials claimed that individuals experiencing gender dysphoria report high rates of suicidal ideation, depression, and anxiety. The administration claimed it was “unclear” whether treatments like surgery and hormone therapy—which the report characterized as scientifically untested—would address those symptoms.

“While there are numerous studies of varying quality showing that this treatment can improve health outcomes for individuals with gender dysphoria, the available scientific evidence on the extent to which such treatments fully remedy all of the issues associated with gender dysphoria is unclear,” it claimed.

But The Williams Institute said there’s “no evidence” to support those allegations.

“On the contrary, the positive and long-term health outcomes of transgender veterans illustrate how well the existing criteria work to determine who is fit for military service,” claimed Jody L. Herman, a public policy scholar at the Williams Institute.

In fact, previous studies have shown that transgender people who have served in the military have better life outcomes than individuals who have never enlisted. Research from the University of Washington claimed that trans veterans report lower rates of depression and enjoy better health overall.

“Many people develop an identity as a military person—that it’s not just something they did but something that they are,” explained study author Charles Hoy-Ellis. “If transgender people, who are among the most marginalized, can successfully navigate a military career, with so many of the dynamics around gender in the general population and in the military, then that experience can contribute to a type of identity cohesiveness.”

Leading medical groups have likewise debunked the premise of Trump’s trans military ban, which was first outlined in a series of July 2017 tweets. Organizations like the American Medical Association and American Psychiatric Association have claimed that, if enacted, the policy would have a “negative impact on the mental health of those targeted.”

After declassifying gender dysphoria as a mental illness, the APA has called for trans inclusion in the military since 2012. Transgender troops “suffer no impairment whatsoever in their judgment or ability to work,” the group claimed.

The attempted ban on trans military service was blocked by a series of federal court orders last year. In June, U.S District Court Judge Marsha J. Pechman dismissed a motion to stay earlier rulings preventing the policy from going into effect, claiming the preliminary injunction “shall remain in full force and effect nationwide.”

A recent report from the New York Times shows, though, that the Pentagon has circumvented this order by delaying the process of enlistment of trans soldiers through endless red tape and requirements that they show outdated medical documents.

Since the ban was lifted in January, just two transgender people have successfully enlisted in the U.S. armed forces.

You can read the full report from The Williams Institute here.


Nico Lang

Nico Lang is a staff writer for INTO, covering news, politics, and global LGBTQ issues.

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