Category Archives: Transmen

How the Military Became the Country’s Largest Employer of Transgender Americans

By Ben Christopher

Why did Lily Kidd join the Marines?

Ask her about it now and she offers a variety of answers. She needed to escape an unaccepting family. She wanted to experience life outside of Alabama. She was eager for a physical challenge (“I don’t go half in on anything,” she says).

But she also joined the United States Marine Corps because, as a twenty-year-old living in the Deep South with a fiancé, Lily Kidd was still presenting herself to the world as a man.

“When you’re growing up as a boy, feminine traits are pushed away,” explains Kidd, a transgender woman who is now 28 and lives in San Diego. “The Marine Corps—that’s the ultimate way to say, ‘hey, you know what, I’ve got nothing to do with that stuff.’”

Last June, the Department of Defense announced that transgender men and women could no longer be discharged from the military on the basis of their gender identity. While the reform arrived too late for Kidd, who was kicked out of the Marines in 2014 after coming out as trans in her seventh year of service, the shift in policy has brought new public attention to the singular challenges (and for many, the very existence) of transgender service members.

But Kidd’s experience is not unique, nor even particularly rare. While media coverage of high profile trans service members like Chelsea Manning and Kristin Beck often presents the stories of transgender troops as novel—a singular juxtaposition of gender nonconformity within institutions that prize conformity above all else—they are anything but.

In fact, the available evidence suggests that transgender Americans serve at rates well above the national average. Though the data is sparse, studies estimate that trans men and women are anywhere from two- to five-times more likely to join the military as their cisgender (nontrans) counterparts. For all its perceived conservatism and raging heteronormativity, the United States Armed Forces is almost certainly the largest employer of transgender people in this country.

Trans service members and veterans offer a variety of explanations for this disparity. For some, the military uniform functions as gender camouflage—a way to forestall uncomfortable questions from friends, family, or spouses. For others, joining the armed forces offers financial security and community to a group that is disproportionately denied both. For Lily Kidd, both aspects motivated her decision to serve.

As both a hiding place and a safety net, the military has become an unlikely refuge for thousands of transgender Americans.

Rough Estimates 

You can tell a lot about a society based on the data it collects.

No branch of the United States military gathers statistics about its transgender service members because, up until June of this year, they did not officially exist.

Likewise, estimates of the American transgender population are notoriously unreliable. The U.S. Census Bureau doesn’t ask about transgender identity, though as Mona Chalabi writes at FiveThirtyEight, the results probably wouldn’t be reliable if they did. “Transgender” has no universally agreed upon definition, and many respondents might be reluctant to honestly answer a question about it from a federal agency. The surveys that do exist tend to focus on particular geographic areas or only target the LGBT population.

Still, what rough estimates there are suggest that transgender people are overrepresented in the military. Perhaps dramatically so.

The most prominent of these estimates comes from the Williams Institute, an LGBT-focused think tank based out of UCLA. In a report from 2014, authors Gary Gates and Jody Herman estimate that approximately 15,500 transgender men and women are serving and that an additional 134,300 trans Americans are veterans. Given a national population of 700,000 (another rough estimate), this suggests that over 1-in-5 (or 21.4%) of all openly transgender Americans are in the military or have served at one point.

Compare this to the average adult American service rate of 10.4%. Transgender Americans, in other words, are estimated to be twice as likely to join the military.




“Assigned Male at Birth” refers to trans women along with all gender nonconforming people whose assigned gender at birth was male. Data source: Williams Institute. Chart: Priceonomics

According to the Gates and Herman, the disparity is true of both transgender men and women. Trans people assigned female at birth were estimated to be nearly three times as likely to serve as the average adult woman, while trans people assigned male at birth were 1.6 times as likely to serve as the average man.

The Williams report estimates have been criticized on methodological grounds, so the figures should be taken with a grain of salt. But it does provide one piece of evidence about a larger trend. And there are others.

In 2013, a team of epidemiologists at the Veterans Health Administration published a study on the prevalence of “gender identity disorder” (a classification since abandoned by the American Psychiatric Association) among the millions of veterans within the VHA system.

After poring over hundreds of thousands of health records from between 2000 and 2011, the researchers found that roughly 23 out of every 100,000 patients in the VHA were diagnosed with GID. That is over five times higher than the total population rate of 4.3 per 100,000.

John Blosnich, the lead author on the paper, acknowledges that using GID diagnosis codes is a “very flawed way” to identify transgender vets.

“If you can imagine, a trans person comes into the V.A. or any sort of medical center with a broken arm, there would be a [record] for a broken arm, but there wouldn’t be an ID code for Gender Identity Disorder,” he explains. “So it’s probably an underestimate, if anything.”

Like the estimates provided in the the Williams Institute, the VHA report provides an imprecise statistic. But taken together, they point to the same broader conclusion.

“I think it’s pretty apparent that, yes, trans people are more likely to serve,” says Jake Eleazer, a doctoral student at the University of Louisville who is writing his counseling psychology dissertation on the experience of transgender service members. Eleazer is also a captain in the Kentucky Army National Guard, a board member with the LGBT service member advocacy group, SPART*A, and a transgender man.

“But then it does lead to the question,” says Eleazer. “Why are trans people more likely to serve?”

Read the full article here


Being Transgender in a Binary World 

By:  Loree Cook‐Daniels – Director, FORGE Transgender Aging Network, USA

Abstract: This essay discusses ways in which people attempt to reconcile or resolve their own cognitive dissonance engendered by transgender people in a society in which gender is perceived as both binary (male OR female) and immutable (an unalterable state or condition).  The author suggests these cognitive dissonance reduction methods may be utilized in other situations where an adult is exposed to information that “doesn’t fit” what they already know.  Much, if not most, of the time we seek to teach someone something new, they already have the cognitive scaffolding for it. It’s possible to teach someone a new recipe because they’ve followed recipes before; this is a simple add‐on, a logical expansion, to what they already know. Or take a new software program: if someone has already used a computer keyboard and function keys or pull‐down menus, it isn’t too hard to learn additional ways those can be used.  What’s much harder to do is teach someone something that seems to contradict what they already know. When your organization is courting an age discrimination suit because one of your managers is certain that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” how do you budge that certainty to make room for other possibilities?

Continue reading Being Transgender in a Binary World 

How Gender Reassignment affects the mind

This is a very interesting article on how gender reassignment affects the mind.

Rewire Me has run dozens of articles on people’s conscious journeys toward healthier, deeper, more spiritually attuned ways of living. I’ve written about religious experiences that are so powerful they seem to spontaneously rewire the whole person, transforming him or her into not just a better person but a completely new one. Such rebirths, I’ve noted, are often marked with name changes: from Jacob to Israel or Saul to Paul. But religious conversion isn’t the only reason people change their names. Some of the best-known name changes of our era have involved changes in gender, from George Jorgensen to Christine Jorgensen, from Tracy Langondino to Thomas Beatie (who gained tabloid attention a few years ago when he became the world’s first pregnant man). What happens in the brain and the mind when gender presentation is aligned with how a person has always felt?

The animal kingdom is one place to look for insight into this question. For some species, sex changes are part of the ordinary cycle of life. Justin Rhodes, Ph.D., a neuroscientist and professor of psychology at the University of Illinois, has been conducting a long-term study of clownfish (also called anemonefish), the colorful fish that live in symbiotic partnerships with sea anemones in the warm shallows of the Indian and Pacific oceans. (Nemo of Pixar fame was an Ocellaris Clownfish, or Amphiprion ocellaris. Some 30 other species have been identified.)

Read More on Rewire Me

Introducing a New Approach to Transgender Care

Accessing quality care can often present a challenge for members of the transgender community. Although awareness of gender diversity is on the rise in the United States, many healthcare providers remain uninformed about the unique issues faced by transgender individuals, and are unequipped to assist patients who seek treatment for this condition. Furthermore, patients who identify as transgender often face discrimination within the healthcare establishment; the results of a recent survey indicated that 19% of transmen and transwomen had actually been denied care based on their transgender status. And for those patients who do manage to access care, treatment is often disjointed. Patients commonly see one provider for hormone therapy, one provider for surgery, and another for gender therapy. Clearly, a better approach is needed.

The International Center for Transgender Care (ICTC) was created in response to this critical need. Founded by a group of plastic surgeons and a mental health therapist, all experts in their respective fields, ICTC seeks to offer a higher level of care for members of the transgender community. Here, our approach is truly holistic. In addition to providing a comprehensive range of gender transition surgeries, ICTC offers gender therapy, a med spa, and a research division. All of our services are delivered in a welcoming and affirming environment at our state-of-the art surgical center in Dallas, Texas.

At ICTC, we believe that gender therapy is an integral component of the treatment process for transgender patients. Our therapy division is headed by Caroline Gibbs, a licensed clinical professional counselor (LCPC) who is internationally recognized as an expert in transgender mental health issues. Caroline practices holistic therapy, a multi-faceted treatment that aims to consider the patient as a whole person. Therapy at the Trans Center emphasizes empathy, acceptance, and a deep understanding of the challenges faced by transmen and transwomen. Depending upon the unique needs of each patient, specific modalities offered may include individual, group, child, or family therapy, voice coaching, and assistance identifying treatment options and resources.

The surgeons at ICTC are internationally renowned for their work in transgender surgical care. With over twenty years of experience performing transgender procedures, our vision is to become the destination of choice for transmen and transwomen throughout the country. We offer a full range of surgical services, including facial feminization and facial masculinization, breast augmentation and mastectomy, body feminization and body masculinization, and gender confirmation surgery. Our surgeons follow the WPATH guidelines for transgender care and will work with you to design a gender transition treatment plan customized to your unique goals and needs.

The transition process is an important time for transgender patients. Many transmen and transwomen have spent their entire lives unhappy with their physical appearance, and the transition period may be the first time that they feel truly comfortable in their own skin. The Med Spa at the Trans Center offers a range of innovative aesthetic procedures to enhance the results of gender transition surgery. Patients may opt to complement their surgical procedures with cosmetic treatments such as laser hair removal, fat reduction procedures, or Botox. Our experienced med spa staff is committed to assisting each patient in looking and feeling their very best during this important life stage.

In addition to providing world-class transgender treatment and care, the experts at ICTC are dedicated to understanding the biological causes and consequences of gender diversity. ICTC is the first institution of its kind to combine research with clinical care. Through our work in the clinical research division, we hope to gain enhanced insight into the transgender experience and positively impact the lives of our patients. Our goal is to become the de facto source for transgender research and publication through a rigorous, methodologically-sound scientific process. Our research interests include gender dysphoria, the causes and implications of transgenderism, and the effectiveness of various treatments and therapies for this condition.

At the International Center for Transgender Care, our mission is to provide the very best holistic therapy and surgery options for the transgender community. Our experienced and compassionate staff look forward to assisting you throughout your transition surgery—please don’t hesitate to reach out to us to discuss our innovative approach to holistic transgender care.

We look forward to assisting you in achieving the very best possible results for all of your gender transition procedures. Contact us today to schedule a consultation at (972) 543-2477.