U.S. Sailors gather for cake during a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month observance aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli (LHA-7) June 22, 2021, in the Pacific Ocean.
U.S. Sailors gather for cake during a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month observance aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli (LHA-7) June 22, 2021, in the Pacific Ocean.
The Department of Defense LGBT Pride Month event celebration cake. The celebration was held on the Pentagon Courtyard, June 8th, 2016.
The Department of Defense LGBT Pride Month event celebration cake. The celebration was held on the Pentagon Courtyard, June 8th, 2016.

In the past most lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) personnel had major restrictions placed on them in terms of service in the United States military. As of 2010 sexual orientation and gender identity in the United States military varies greatly as the United States Armed Forces have become increasingly openly diverse in the regards of LGBTQ[a] people and acceptance towards them.

According to a 2015 report from the RAND Corporation, a survey of over 16,000 service members found that 6.1% of the respondents identified as being LGBT,[1] with 4.2% of males and 16.6% of females identifying as LGBT.[1] When sexual orientation and gender identity are separated, 5.8% were lesbian, gay or bisexual, and 0.6% were transgender (0.3% of transgender respondents also identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual).[1]

By demographics


Main article: Sexual orientation in the United States military

Until 1993, military policy strictly forbid non-heterosexuals from serving in the military. From 1993, the military used its "Don't ask, don't tell" policy, which only restricted non-heterosexuals from serving if they were open about their sexual orientation.[2] This led to a number[quantify] of active investigations into members of the services to determine their sexuality and saw several court challenges over privacy rights. The "Don't ask, don't tell" policy was repealed in September 2011, allowing homosexuals and bisexuals to serve openly in the armed forces.[2] Marriage and partner benefits remained in question until after the Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Windsor (2013) that the military must offer similar benefits to these relationships as they do to heterosexual ones.[3] Since 2013, the military gives fully equal treatment legally to their partners and families.

Transgender people

Main article: Transgender personnel in the United States military

From the creation of the United States military to 1960, there was no ban on transgender people from serving or enlisting the United States military. From 1960 to June 30, 2016, there was a blanket ban on all transgender people from serving and enlisting in the United States military; this ended on January 1, 2018, when transgender individuals in the United States military were allowed to serve in their identified or assigned gender upon completing transition.

From January 1, 2018, to April 11, 2019, transgender individuals could enlist in the United States military under the condition of being stable for 18 months in their identified or assigned gender. Under the 2020 version of DoD Instruction, 1300.28,[4] transgender personnel in the United States military could only serve in their original sex assignment, unless they had been grandfathered in prior to April 12, 2019, or were given a waiver. This Memorandum, originally scheduled to expire on March 12, 2020, was extended until September 12, 2020.[5][6] Before the Memorandum expired, it was replaced by a reissued version of DoD Instruction 1300.28, entitled "Military Service by Transgender Persons and Persons with Gender Dysphoria", which took effect on September 4, 2020.

On January 25, 2021, U.S. President Joe Biden issued an executive order to revoke the bans on transgender individuals. Despite not requiring the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Department of Defense to immediately issue orders completely lifting the transgender bans, such orders will be required after both the U.S. Secretary of Defense and the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security hold consultation with the Joint Chiefs of Staff.[7]

Intersex persons

Main article: Intersex people and military service in the United States

The accepting of intersex people in the United States Armed Forces seems to vary depending on the nature of the condition for individual people.[8] Publications by the United States National Center for Biotechnology Information recommends that intersex individuals be allowed to serve in the armed forces, but not combat units.[9] The Veterans Health Administration distinguishes between surgeries for transgender individuals and intersex persons. In 2015 this allowed intersex persons to receive medically necessary treatment that was prohibited for trans people at the time.[10][11] The Civil Air Patrol and Coast Guard Auxiliary accept all intersex persons.[12]


In 2012 transvestism was included in a list of conditions which disqualified individuals for service under the Department of Defense Instruction 6130.03.[13] The ban dates back to 1961.[14] The repeal of Don't ask, don't tell did not allow cross-dressers to serve openly in the armed forces.[15][16] Since cross-dressing is sometimes conflated with attempts by transgender people to transition there have been instances of people being discharged for cross-dressing or rejected from service altogether when trying to enlist for past cross-dressing.[17][18] As of 2021, transvestism is still grounds for discharge, or denial of service in the US Military.[19]

By service

Air Force

In 2013 it was revealed that Mike Rosebush, who then oversaw the “Character and Leadership” coaching program of the Air Force Academy, had previously worked as an ex-gay therapist, and as the vice president of the ex-gay-therapy-supporting Focus on the Family Institute.[20]


In 2016 Eric Fanning became the 22nd Secretary of the Army, making him the first openly gay head of any service in the U.S. military.[21][22]

Coast Guard

In 1994, the United States Coast Guard issued a memo by Commandant Thomas Fisher public which barred anti-gay discrimination against the service's civilian employees while uniformed personnel were still subject to discharge under "don't ask, don't tell".[23][24][25][26][27]

Marine Corps

In 2013 the U.S. Marines announced that clubs conducting business on base must admit same-sex spouses.[28]


The Newport sex scandal arose from a 1919 investigation by the United States Navy into homosexual acts by Navy personnel and civilians in Newport, Rhode Island.[29] The investigation was noted for its controversial methods of intelligence gathering, specifically its use of enlisted personnel to investigate alleged homosexuals by engaging them sexually. A subsequent military trial ended with the court-martial of 17 sailors charged with sodomy and "scandalous conduct."[29] Most were sent to the naval prison at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Maine. Two more were dishonorably discharged and two others were found innocent with no further action. There was national news coverage of the scandal and a congressional investigation, which concluded with Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels and Assistant Secretary of the Navy (and future United States president) Franklin D. Roosevelt being formally rebuked by a Congressional committee.

The USNS Harvey Milk was officially named at a ceremony in San Francisco on 16 August 2016.[30] It is the first U.S. Navy ship named for an openly gay leader (Harvey Milk, who served as a diving officer in the Navy from 1951 to 1955.)[31][32]


Main articles: LGBT healthcare in the United States military and LGBT healthcare in the United States Veterans Health Administration

Memorials for Queer veterans

In 2000, a memorial to all veterans and to Queer veterans was dedicated in the national veterans cemetery in Phoenix, Arizona.[33] In 2001, the first American memorial specifically honoring LGBT veterans was dedicated in Desert Memorial Park, Cathedral City, California.[33] In 2014, the third LGBT Veterans Memorial was dedicated at the New Mexico Veterans Memorial Park in Albuquerque, New Mexico by the Bataan chapter of the American Veterans for Equal Rights.[34] In May 2015, the first American federally-approved monument honoring LGBT veterans with the message "Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people have served honorably and admirably in America's armed forces" was dedicated at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery near Chicago;[35] the US$18,000 monument was dedicated by the Chicago Chapter of American Veterans for Equal Rights, and was defaced by vandals in June 2017.[36][37]


See also


  1. ^ For the existence and experiences of transgender people in the US military, see Transgender personnel in the United States military


  1. ^ a b c Meadows, Sarah O.; Engel, Charles C.; Collins, Rebecca L.; Beckman, Robin L.; Cefalu, Matthew; Hawes-Dawson, Jennifer; Waymouth, Molly; Kress, Amii M.; Sontag-Padilla, Lisa; Ramchand, Rajeev; Williams, Kayla M. (21 June 2018). "2015 Health Related Behaviors Survey: Sexual Orientation, Transgender Identity, and Health Among U.S. Active-Duty Service Members". Retrieved 26 November 2020.
  2. ^ a b "Repeal of "Don't ask, Don't Tell"". Human Rights Campaign. Retrieved March 30, 2021.
  3. ^ "United States v. Windsor, 570 U.S. 744 (2013)". Justia. Retrieved March 30, 2021.
  4. ^ "Military Service by Transgender Persons and Persons with Gender Dysphoria" (PDF). United States Department of Defense. September 4, 2020. Archived (PDF) from the original on September 23, 2020. Retrieved September 8, 2020.
  5. ^ "Directive-type Memorandum (DTM)-19-004 — Military Service by Transgender Persons and Persons with Gender Dysphoria". Office of the Deputy Secretary of Defense. March 12, 2019. Archived from the original on April 22, 2020. Retrieved April 12, 2020 – via Google Docs.
  6. ^ "Directive-type Memorandum (DTM)-19-004 - Military Service by Transgender Persons and Persons with Gender Dysphoria March 17, 2020" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on March 29, 2020. Retrieved March 21, 2020.
  7. ^ "Enabling All Qualified Americans to Serve Their Country in Uniform". The White House. 2021-01-25. Retrieved 2021-01-25.
  8. ^ "Gender, Sexuality and Joining the Military - Voice of San Diego". 10 February 2010.
  9. ^ Marom, T.; Itskoviz, D.; Ostfeld, I. (2008). "Intersex patients in military service". Military Medicine. 173 (11): 1132–5. doi:10.7205/milmed.173.11.1132. PMID 19055190.
  10. ^ Young, Evan (December 5, 2015). "Does VA Distinguish Between Transsexual Gender-Confirmation Surgery and Intersex Surgery?". Trans Veteran. Retrieved March 30, 2021.
  11. ^ Steve W (June 13, 2011). "VHA Issues New Directive on Trans and Intersex Veteran Health Care". Archived from the original on June 30, 2011. Retrieved March 30, 2021.
  12. ^ 2014; Operative Pediatric Surgery - Page 901
  13. ^ "Department of Defense Instruction Number 6130.03" (PDF). Office of the Secretary of Defense. 2 July 2012. Retrieved 28 August 2017.
  14. ^ Belkin, Aaron (June 2016). "Here Today, Gone Tomorrow - Why the US Military's Transgender Ban Unraveled So Quickly" (PDF). Palm Center. Retrieved March 30, 2021.
  15. ^ "What About "Transvestite Clothing" In The Military? - Dallas Voice". 28 September 2015. Archived from the original on 28 September 2015.
  16. ^ "Transgender Policy in the Australian Defence Force: Medicalization and Its Discontents". Archived from the original on January 23, 2019. Retrieved March 30, 2021.
  17. ^ Speckhard, Anna; Paz, Reuven (2014). "Transgender Service in the Israel Defense Forces: A Polar Opposite Stance to the U.S. Military Policy of Barring Transgender Soldiers from Service". Academia.edu.
  18. ^ Sexual Assault in the U.S. Military: The Battle Within America's Armed; 83
  19. ^ "Medical Conditions that can Keep You from Joining the Military". Military.com. Retrieved March 30, 2021.
  20. ^ Shapiro, Lila (November 21, 2013). "Gay Cadet Lashes Out At Air Force Press Release Claiming Gays Are Welcome" – via Huff Post.
  21. ^ Tan, Michelle (September 18, 2015). "President nominates first openly gay Army secretary". Army Times. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
  22. ^ Santoscoy, Carlos (May 20, 2016). "Eric Fanning Thanks Boyfriend For 'Patience At Home' During Confirmation Process". On Top Magazinr. Retrieved May 24, 2016.
  23. ^ "Clear sailing?". The Advocate. Here. 1994-05-31. p. 15. Retrieved 2010-07-28.
  24. ^ "LGBT « Coast Guard Compass". Compass.
  25. ^ "A branch of the military just announced they will resist Trump over transgender troops". The Independent. August 2, 2017.
  26. ^ October 31, Michael Bedwell; pm, 2013 at 10:45 pm EST at 10:45 (October 31, 2013). "Coast Guard enacts pro-gay non-discrimination policy".
  27. ^ "OutServe-SLDN – We've Got Your Six".
  28. ^ Fantz, Ashley (January 10, 2013). "Marine Corps to spouse clubs: Allow same-sex members or you don't operate on base". CNN. Retrieved January 26, 2013.
  29. ^ a b Ward, Donna Patricia (October 16, 2018). "FDR's Investigation of Homosexuals at the Navy YMCA in Rhode Island". History Collection. Retrieved March 30, 2021.
  30. ^ Blake, Andrew (17 August 2016). "Naval ceremony celebrates naming of USNS Harvey Milk". The Washington Times. Retrieved 21 October 2016.
  31. ^ Staley, Oliver (17 August 2016). "The US Navy is naming a ship after slain gay rights leader Harvey Milk". Quartz. Retrieved October 21, 2016.
  32. ^ Wong, Julia Carrie (July 28, 2016). "US navy to name ship after gay rights icon Harvey Milk" – via www.theguardian.com.
  33. ^ a b "National LGBT Veterans Memorial". Nlgbtvm.org. Retrieved 2015-05-26.
  34. ^ LTC Steve Loomis (May 26, 2014). "New Inclusive Memorial Honors LGBT Veterans".
  35. ^ "Monument to LGBT veterans dedicated in Elwood". abc7chicago.com. Retrieved 2015-05-26.
  36. ^ Philipps, Dave (26 July 2017). "For Transgender Service Members, a Mix of Sadness, Anger and Fear". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 July 2017.
  37. ^ Gallagher, Erin (23 June 2017). "Monument dedicated to LGBT veterans defaced at Abraham Lincoln cemetery". Daily Southtown. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 27 July 2017.