Essay: Gender in the US Military

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  • Subject area(s): Sociology essays
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  • Published on: July 14, 2019
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  • Gender in the US Military
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Based on a thorough review of scholarly and popular articles, it is widely suggested that the U.S. military’s policies are strongly dictated by gender binary. Researchers from UCLA found that transgender Americans are twice as likely to serve in the military as the overall population, however, discriminatory practices within the service oppress transgender military members (Gates & Herman, 2014). Thus, the significance of this policy brief is that it will demonstrate the primary concepts and information that are relevant to transgender soldiers in the military. Specifically, this policy brief will present the following sections: Background/Context, Defining the Issue, Perspectives and Viewpoints on the Issue, Current/Proposed Solutions.

The background and context of this issue is of great significance to the policy brief. This research indicates that until 2016, transgender service members were required to hide their gender identity in order to serve (Feder, 2013). In July of 2017, President Donald Trump banned transgender people from serving in the military due to “medical costs and disruption” brought on by transgender service members. The ban was blocked and deemed unconstitutional by a federal judge (Philipps, 2017). Further, a study conducted by the Rand Corporation concluded that there is little cost to allow transgender soldiers in the military and no negative impact on operational readiness or effectiveness (Schaefer, et al., 2016). Overall, it is evident that there is no concrete argument against allowing transgender people to serve.

Defining the Issue

Sources have defined this issue in a variety of ways. For example, research suggests that individuals that identify as transgender battle discrimination and stereotyping not only in civilian society, but military as well (Grant et al., 2011). Furthermore, another source states that, if found out, transgenders in the service “have to endure the humiliation of a military discharge along with potential loss of benefits. Other able-bodied transgender recruits are being turned away before having the opportunity to enlist in any branch of the armed forces” (Ross, 2013)

Perspectives and Viewpoints on the Issue

This particular policy issue suggests that not everyone has the same viewpoint or perspective. For instance, Mendez (2014) indicates that

“[b]eing a citizen and being otherwise qualified to serve meant little in the face of prejudice and the prevailing ignorance of the times. The difficult lessons of the nation’s past demonstrate clearly why exclusionary policies contradict the most-revered and recognized declaration of American government, that all persons should be treated as essentially equal”.

In contrast, other sources express that those that are transgender

“face issues of identity and body that can bog them down as soldiers. The military is not the right environment for this kind of self-discovery” (Bonte-Friedheim, 2017).

Given that there is no data to backup the latter statement, the justification for allowing transgenders to serve is much stronger.

Current Proposed Solutions

Although there are no definite proposed solutions, Schaefer et al. (2016) offered the following recommendations, based on their research, for allowing transgenders to serve openly:

“Accession policies. DoD should review and revise the language in accession instructions to match the DSM-5 for conditions related to mental fitness. Physical fitness standards should specify physical requirements (rather than physical conditions) and should clarify when the service member’s target gender requirements will begin to apply.

Retention policies. DoD should clarify retention standards during and after medical transition. For example, policies should detail whether and when personnel may need to be held temporarily exempt from physical fitness testing and requirements during gender transition.

Separation policies. DoD may want to revise the current separation process based on lessons learned from the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. When discharge decisions occur outside the standard medical and physical review process, this limits documentation and opportunities for review. DoD should also develop and disseminate clear criteria for assessing whether and how transgender-related conditions may interfere with duty performance.

Deployment policies. DoD should review and possibly adjust its deployment restrictions in line with medical and technological advances, including minimally invasive treatments and telemedicine. Such reforms could minimize the readiness impact of medical procedures that are common among transgender personnel.”


In conclusion, the argument for banning transgender peoples from serving in the military is illegitimate. It is crucial that human rights protect all humans, no matter race, gender identity, religion, sexual orientation, or disability. Considering that a 2014 study estimated that around 15,500 transgender people currently serve in the military, it would be illogical to bar these individuals from serving their country (Gates & Herman, 2014).

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