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Religious Tolerance logo

Transgender persons in the U.S. Military

Public reaction

Pro-equality demonstration in Times Square, New York City.

Part 4

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About transgender individuals:

There are two generally accepted genders: female and male. The vast majority of adults identify their current gender as matching their biological sex; both are either female or male. Transgender persons usually identify themselves as opposite to their biological sex; a minority of trans people identify themselves as being of neither gender, or as being of both genders.

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A brief review of what being transgender or cisgender involves:

A person's sex and gender can be defined in three different ways:

  1. By their birth-identified sex, which is recorded at birth on each newborn's birth certificate after a doctor inspects their body.

  2. By their biological sex, as defined by the X and Y sex chromosomes in each cell of their body. Presence of a Y chromosome indicates a male; its absence indicates female.

  3. By their gender identity later in life. That is, whether a person identifies themselves as being male or female -- or in rare instances as neither gender, or both genders.

For about 99.4% of human adults, all three indicators of genders match, and the individual is referred to as "cisgender." However, a small percentage of children identify themselves as transgender starting as young as three years-of-age. For many of these children, it is a temporary phase. But about 0.6% of all people remain transgender into adulthood and for the rest of their lives.

It is not a choice. It is not confusion about gender. This mismatch appears to be caused by certain internal brain structures and is beyond the person's control. Researchers have found differences in structures in:

"... an obscure brain region called the forceps minor between the two hemispheres at the center of the brain. On average, among cisgender persons, the forceps minor of males contains parallel nerve fibers of higher density than in females." 1,2

MTF transgender persons were identified as males at birth and now identify as female. They have been found to have female brain structures, and vice-versa. Their statement that they have a female brain embedded in a male body would appear to be literally true.

Many religious conservatives reject the belief that transgender persons' brains can be of the opposite gender to their birth-identified gender. Their birth-identified gender is considered fixed for life. Most conservatives believe that transgender persons are merely "gender confused," are perhaps mentally ill, and are in need of therapy to straighten themselves out.

More detailed information about being transsexual is available elsewhere on this web site.

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Treatment of transgender service members within the U.S. military:

In the past, whenever transgender service members were detected, policy required that they be involuntarily separated, discharged, or denied reenlistment solely on the basis that their current gender identity was different from their birth-identified gender.

On 2016-JUN-30, the Pentagon announced an immediate change in its long-standing policy. Existing transgender service members would be allowed to openly serve in the military The full policy, which later included allowing new transgender applicants to enlist, was originally scheduled to be completely implemented no later than 2017-JUL-01. 3

Also in 2016, a study of transgender persons in the military was released by the RAND Corporation -- a widely respected nonprofit research and analysis institution. They found that:

  • There are currently an 1,320 to 6,630 transgender troops serving among the 1.3 million of cisgender service members on active duty -- a miniscule percentage. Nobody knows the exact number because most transgender service members have hidden their status because of fear of discrimination or expulsion.

  • During the first few years of the program to allow transgender service members, as many as 6,000 of them would have "reduced deployability," each for short interval, because they were "undergoing gender transition treatment." Recovery time from this type of operation typically ranges from two weeks to six weeks. This is a miniscule number compared to the total of 50,000 soldiers who were non-deployable during 2015, many of whom were out of commission for much longer intervals. 4

  • Allowing transgender service members to freely serve would increase the military's medical budget by a miniscule amount: 0.17% to 0.4%. Compared to the total military budget, the cost of treating transgender personnel is vanishingly small.

Agnes Gereben Schaefer, a senior political scientist at RAND and the lead author of the report said:

"So we're talking really small numbers -- really small." 4

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Other estimates of the number of transgender service members:

As noted above, the RAND Corporation estimated between 1,320 and 6,630 transgender service members.

In contrast, the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law estimates that there about 8,800 transgender individuals serving on active duty. 5

A generally accepted estimate in the general population is, that there are 6 transgender persons out of every 1,000 adults (0.6%). If the percentage in the military were the same as that in the general population, there would be about 7,800 transgender service members.

However, transgender individuals are often heavily discriminated against in non-military employment and thus may be more inclined to try to join the military. Also, once in the military, they may be able to have free gender confirmation surgery (also called "gender reassignment surgery," or "sex change operation," or "sex reassignment surgery)." Both factors may cause a larger percentage of transgender persons in the military than among the general public.

An accurate number is impossible to estimate.

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2017-MAY-08: The Deputy Defense Secretary issued a memo:

About 10 months into the implementation process, Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work issued a memo to military leaders requiring them to report back by the end of that month about the:

"... military's readiness to begin accepting [new] transgender applicants on July-1, 2017." 4

Tom Vanden Brook, writing for USA TODAY, said:

"The memo also contains language that one of the architects of the [2016] transgender policy interprets as an opportunity for the services to back out of recruiting transgender troops by raising the issue of how they could affect readiness for combat.

'The personnel policies of this Department are designed to enhance the warfighting readiness and lethality of the force that protects our country,' Work wrote. 'We do not intend to reconsider prior decisions unless they cause readiness problems that could lessen our ability to fight, survive and win on the battlefield'." 6

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2017-JUL-01: Decision to delay the program:

Defense Secretary James Mattis announced a delay of at least six months before transgender applicants would be allowed to join the military. This would last until at least 2018-JAN-01. 7,11  

He issued a memo stating:

"Since becoming the Secretary of Defense, I have emphasized that the Department of Defense must measure each policy decision against one critical standard: will the decision affect the readiness and lethality of our armed forces? Put another way, how will the decision affect the ability of America’s military forces to defend the nation?

I have determined that that is is necessary to defer the start of accessions for six months. We will use this additional time to evaluate more carefully the impact of such accessions on readiness and lethality."

The Secretary's spokesperson, Dana W. White, issued a statement saying that the delay followed recommendations from the military branches. She said, in part:

"The services will review their accession plans and provide input on the impact to the readiness and lethality of our forces." 11

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2017-JUL: Medical funding bill fails to pass in the House:

Deirdre Walsh and Jeremy Herb, writing for CNN Politics, said that Representative Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) -- the chairperson of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee -- and some other conservative Republicans had been communicating earlier with the President to find a way of preventing the military from having to pay for the medical costs associated with gender confirmation surgery for transgender service members. 8 Earlier in July, Rep. Hartzler proposed an amendment on the House's defense authorization bill to ban such payments. It was defeated by a vote of 209 in favor and 214 opposed.

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The above article is Part 4 in a series of articles on transgender persons in the U.S. military. Others are:

  • Part 1: 2011/2012: Overview. Support. Current military policies. Care for veterans.

  • Part 2: 2016: Previous ends to discrimination by the military. Pentagon announces an end to discrimination against transgender members. Negative reactions.

  • Part 3: 2016: More negative reactions to the ending of discrimination. Positive reactions.

  • Part 5: 2017: Trump bans transgender military service members via tweets. Federal court blocks the move.

  • Part 6: 2017-JUL/AUG: Impact on Trump's Ban of Transgender Military Service members. Public opinion polls. Court cases.

  • Part 7: 2017-AUG: Trump's restores Ban of Military Transgender Persons. Lawsuits filed. Gen. Mattis responds. Extra Cost of Transgender Members.

  • Part 8: 2017-OCT to DEC: Two Court injuctions against Pres. Trump's Transgender ban. Enlistees able to apply, in theory.

  • Part 9: 2018-JAN/MAR: Transgender Enlistees Apply. Pres. Trump Modifies Transgender ban.

  • Part 10: 2018-APR to 2019-JAN: Medical groups criticize the ban. CNN celebrates Father's Day. Billboard battle in California.

  • Part 11: Anti-Trump Light Show. Trump loses at District Court level, asks to bypass Courts of Appeal and go directly to the U.S. Supreme Court. High Court activates ban.

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A helpful list:

  • The Toronto Star has a list of false claims made by President Trump. At the end of his first six months in office, the list totals 447 false claims. They average 2.4 false claims per day. At this rate he will accumulate over 3,500 false claims by the end of his first term in office. Daniel Dale, writing for the Star, commented:

    "... Trump has proven uniquely willing to lie, exaggerate and mislead. By all expert accounts, he is more frequently inaccurate than any of his predecessors."


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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Robert M. Sapolsky, "Caught Between Male and Female," The Wall Street Journal, 2013-DEC-06, at:
  2. Frank P.M. Kruijver, "Male-to-Female Transsexuals Have Female Neuron Numbers in a Limbic Nucleus," The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, Vol. 85, No. 5, at:
  3. "Secretary of Defense Ash Carter Announces Policy for Transgender Service Members," U.S. Department of Defense, 2016-JUN-30, at:
  4. "Transgender Troops: Fit to Serve," Rand Corp, 2016-AUG-18, at:
  5. Madeline Conway, "Sanders threatens to halt briefing as transgender troop ban dominates," Politico, 2017-JUL-26, at:
  6. Tom Vanden Brook, "Services required to report plans to accept new transgender troops," USA Today, 2017-MAY-21, at:
  7. Barbara Starr, Zachary Cohen and Jim Sciutto, "US Joint Chiefs blindsided by Trump's transgender ban," CNN Politics, 2017-JUL-27, at:
  8. Deirdre Walsh and Jeremy Herb, "Conservatives lobbied White House on transgender policy but total ban wasn't what they asked for," CNN Politics, 2017-JUL-27, at:

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How you may have arrived here:

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Home > Religious Information > Basic data > Transgender > here

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Home > Morality and ethics > Transgender > here

Home > Religiously-motivated conflicts > Specific religious conflict event > Craziness of the 2016 election season

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Copyright © 2016 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2016-JUL-27
Latest update : 2016-AUG-03
Author: B.A. Robinson

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