Transgender military service

Transgender people have performed military service throughout history. Many countries allow transgender people to serve openly in the military, including:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Bolivia
  • Canada
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Israel
  • Netherland
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Spain
  • Sweden

United States

In the United States, thousands of transgender servicemembers have served honorably. According to a 2014 report by the Williams Institute:

An estimated 150,000 transgender individuals have served in the U.S. armed forces, or are currently on active duty. In addition, an estimated 134,000 transgender individuals are veterans or are retired from Guard or Reserve service, 8,800 transgender adults are currently on active duty in the U.S. armed forces, and an estimated 6,700 transgender individuals are serving in the Guard or Reserve forces. Transgender individuals assigned female at birth are nearly three times more likely than all adult women, and those assigned male at birth are 1.6 times more likely than all adult men, to serve. The estimates are derived using data from the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, which was conducted by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality.

Transgender Military Service in the United States (2014)

Below are just a few of the many notable transgender veterans who served the United States:

  • Calpernia Addams
  • Kristin Beck
  • Mary Elizabeth Clark
  • Charlotte Clymer
  • Joanne Conte
  • Sage Fox
  • Phyllis Frye
  • Jennifer Gale
  • Deborah Hartin
  • Monica Helms
  • Christine Jorgensen
  • Yasmin Lee
  • Christine McGinn
  • Shane Ortega
  • Jennifer Pritzker
  • Sabrina Ramet
  • Renée Richards
  • Angelica Ross
  • Lauren Scott
  • Sheri Swokowski

Thousands more transgender people are currently on active or reserve duty, including many who serve openly. Many transgender people ages 18 through 25 are required to register with the US Selective Service System in the event of a military draft. A 2013 study found that transgender people are more likely to serve in the US military than other citizens.

The National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS) found that transgender Americans serve in the military at a high rate; 20 percent of NTDS respondents had served in the armed forces as compared to 10 percent of the U.S. general population.

Still Serving in Silence: Transgender Service Members and Veterans in the National Transgender Discrimination Survey (2013). [PDF]

Their status was challenged beginning in 2017, when Donald Trump indicated he would reverse an Obama Administration decision that allowed trans people to serve openly. Many of the Trump Administration’s actions against trans servicemembers were reversed during the Biden Administration.

Learn more below about transgender military service in the United States.


References

Gates GJ, Herman JL (May 2014). Transgender Military Service in the United States. Williams Institute. https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/publications/trans-military-service-us/ (PDF)

Resources

US Department of Veterans Affairs (patientcare.va.gov)

TAVA: Transgender American Veterans Association (transveteran.org)

  • Advocates for health services for transgender veterans.

OutServe-SLDN (outserve-sldn.org)

  • Legal group that advocates for authentic transgender service and supports the LGBTQ military and veteran communities

SPART*A (spartapride.org)

  • Advocates for actively serving transgender military members, veterans, and their families.

Tawani Foundation (tawanifoundation.org)