Fit to Serve? Exploring Mental and Physical Health and Well-Being among Transgender Active-Duty Service Members and Veterans in the U.S. Military

Brandon J. Hill, Alida Bouris, Joshua Trey Barnett, Dayna Walker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations

Abstract

Purpose: Although transgender people are currently excluded from enlistment and discharged from service based on medical and psychological fitness policies, the current mental and physical health of transgender active-duty U.S. military personnel and veterans is poorly understood. The purpose of the current study was to investigate the military histories, lifetime mental and physical health diagnoses, and transgender transition-related health of transgender active-duty service members (ADSM) and veterans. Methods: Participants were recruited through private LGBT military and veteran organizational listservs, snowball sampling, and in-person recruitment to complete an anonymous and confidential self-administered online questionnaire. Results: A total of 106 transgender ADSM (n=55) and veterans (n=51) completed the questionnaire. Transgender veterans were significantly older (44 mean years vs. 29.5 mean years, t=-6.23, p<0.001). A greater percentage of veterans than ADSM reported depression (64.6% vs. 30.9%, χ2=11.68, p=0.001) and anxiety (41.3% vs. 18.2%, χ2=6.54, p=0.011). In addition, 15.9% of veterans versus 1.8% of ADSM (χ2=6.53, p=0.011) had been diagnosed with a substance abuse disorder. There were no significant differences in lifetime physical health conditions; however, veterans reported a higher body-mass index than ADSM (28.4 vs. 24.9, t=-3.85, p<0.001). For both groups, mental and physical health problems were positively correlated with age and years of military service (r=0.37-0.84, p<0.01). There were no significant differences between groups in transgender transition-related health. Conclusion: Our data represent the first descriptive statistics of lifetime mental and physical health issues among transgender ADSM and veterans. Data indicate that transgender ADSM report fewer lifetime mental and physical health problems than transgender veterans. Taken together, our findings suggest that more research, specifically among transgender ADSM, is needed to challenge the exclusion of transgender persons from U.S. military service based on the presumption of poor mental or physical health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4-11
Number of pages8
JournalTransgender Health
Volume1
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Gender Studies
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)

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