by Palm Center May 2, 2019

New Survey about Transgender Military Service Reveals Nothing about Transgender Military Service

Don’t be fooled by today’s Washington Post article written by faculty from the U.S. Naval Academy and Dartmouth College, entitled “What do military service members think about diversity — especially gender diversity — in their ranks?”

It is pitched as relevant to the transgender military policy debate, but it has NOTHING to do with it.

In order to assess attitudes on transgender military policy, it asked Naval Academy midshipmen to evaluate hypothetical “gender nonbinary” applicants. But it makes no sense at all to use that as a measure of openness to transgender service. There is no present mechanism for service in other than binary male and female categories, and so of course midshipmen are going to disfavor candidates who don’t fit within those categories. In contrast, the inclusive policy that ended April 12, 2019 required transgender service members meet all military standards based on their gender identity, whether male or female, the same as their non-transgender colleagues.

The authors confused the issue even more by equating “gender nonbinary” with “gender nonconformity.” They aren’t the same thing. A woman is gender nonconforming, for example, when her behavior or appearance is not stereotypically feminine. It doesn’t mean she is transgender, and it doesn’t mean she identifies as neither male nor female.

In the endnotes to the study, the authors say they chose the term “nonbinary” because it was used in other research. They then made the leap to “Maybe we can tie this into the transgender policy debate.” They don’t understand how the terms nonbinary, gender nonconforming, and transgender mean very, very different things.

In contrast, surveys that actually ask respondents about transgender military service reveal strong support for inclusive policy, and that is true in both military and civilian communities.

A Military Family Advisory Network survey found that the military community (members, veterans, and their spouses) supports transgender service by a two-to-one margin, 62%-31% (at page 31).

A Quinnipiac poll found that 86% of civilian respondents in the 18-34 age group (the wheelhouse of military service age) support transgender service.

86 percent is an astounding level of agreement on any issue. The Department of Defense should give some serious thought to whether the newly reinstated ban on transgender service members will reduce the propensity of all young Americans to serve. It should also consider whether the ban will undermine unit cohesion among current members forced by policy to turn against their transgender colleagues.