By Claire Zillman
July 27, 2017

U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted yesterday that he is banning transgender Americans from serving in the military in “any capacity,” citing the “tremendous medical costs and disruption” they’d impose. The directive triggered a wave of outrage and confusion, since there are already thousands of transgender troops serving in the armed forces (and their health care costs are thought to be minimal). The president didn’t specify what would happen to existing service men and women.

What is clear is that the president is targeting a group of Americans that is twice as likely as the general population to lend themselves to the armed services. As Fortune‘s Sy Mukherjee reports, UCLA researchers found in 2015 that 21% of all transgender U.S. adults have served in the military, compared to 10% of the overall American population. Thirty-two percent of transgender people assigned as male at birth have served (versus 20% of men in the broader population) and 5.5% of those assigned female at birth have served (versus 1.7% of women overall).

Researchers have posed several theories for why this is the case. Some transgender troops have cited a desire to reaffirm their masculinity by enlisting. But transgender Americans’ lack of socioeconomic opportunity—up to 64% report incomes lower than $25,000—and exclusion from traditional workplaces may also be factors. And, of course, some people simply want to serve.




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