A Department of Defense-funded study from UCLA has found that 66% of cisgender military service members in all branches of the military broadly support the participation of transgender people in the military, effectively opposing Trump’s ban on trans service members.
This support poses a major challenge to one of President Trump’s main motivations for enacting the ban in the first place: the idea that trans service members have a negative effect on the rest of their units.
In the study’s abstract, the researchers recommended the ban be lifted: “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.”
If you’re wondering why the Pentagon or Trump would’ve commissioned such a study, they didn’t. President Obama ordered the study in 2018 to examine support for his now-revoked decision to allow trans people in the U.S. military. Apparently, Trump didn’t realize this and let the study continue.
In 2017, Trump announced the military ban in a series of tweets that claimed trans people cause “tremendous medical costs and disruption.”
….victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2017
In a subsequent press conference, former White House Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed that Trump feels trans people serving in the military “erodes military readiness and unit cohesion.”
Trans service members, however, have argued the contrary. In 2019, five trans servicemembers testified before the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee, claiming that trans people don’t erode unit readiness and cohesion but rather Trump’s ban on trans service members does.
“What is the value of having transgender people in the military?” asked Army Capt. Alivia Stehlik. “Based on my experience first as a combat arms officer and medical provider, the answer is unequivocally that my transition — and so many others — has dramatically increased the readiness and lethality of every branch of the armed forces.”
The UCLA study — which used data from 486 cisgender active duty service members from the four major U.S. military branches — seems to reinforce Stehlik’s argument.
Support for trans service members was also higher among Black and Latinx participants of the study as compared to white participants. It was also higher among lesbian, gay, and bisexual participants than it was among straight participants.
“That speaks to the importance of diversity in the armed forces,” one of the authors of the study, Dr. Ian Holloway, told Gay City News, “and there have been some concerted efforts to increase representation in the military.”
The beliefs represented in this study also align with the beliefs of the general population. A 2019 Gallup poll found that 71% of Americans support trans people in the military, with Republicans being the least likely to support them.