Transgender Military Personnel

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LGBTQ Military

Transgender rights and issues are a prominent part of the LGBTQ human rights movement. This is particularly so in military services around the world. Most countries continue to have an outright ban on transgender military personnel. Nineteen nations, including Australia, Canada, Israel, the United States and Great Britain, allow military service by transgender individuals. The Netherlands was the first country in the world (1974) to permit transgender individuals to openly serve in the military.

Despite the ban in other countries, an increasing number of transgender military personnel are choosing to open up. In 2014, the first international conference on the subject was held and received significant global media coverage. The conference, title ‘Perspectives on Transgender Military Service from Around the Globe’, was held in Washington D.C. and hosted by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The United States is the most recent country to have relaxed its regulations on transgender military personnel, making it harder to remove such troops from service by assigning responsibility to a senior civilian official. This follows from the military's dismantlement of the 'don't ask don't tell' policy. The first out transgender individual to serve in the U.S. military was Shane Ortega, a Sergeant in the army.

According to a Williams Institute 2014 study, an estimated 15,500 transgender individuals currently serve in the U.S. military with 60% being male and 40% female. Nevertheless, an outright ban remains in place.

The issues for serving transgender military personnel include social issues (where to sleep and shower), hormone treatment plans and other medical assistance, respect and civility with fellow members, how they are addressed, what uniform to wear, and promotion opportunities.

There remains a distinct disconnect between acceptance and policy on the issue today. There is no compelling medical reason for the banning of transgender individuals from serving given current modern medical procedures. Rather, any ban is itself a damaging and unfair policy. Allowing transgender individuals to serve would actually reduce incidences of gender harassment, assaults, and suicides.

We have identified a number of high-profile transgender members of the military from around the world. Simply click on their names to read their fascinating biographies.



Great Britain


New Zealand


United States

See Also

Further Reading/Research

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