There are over 70,000 active duty military personnel who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB) and approximately 15,000 active duty military personnel who identify as transgender. Until the repeal of the policy commonly referred to as “Don't Ask, Don't Tell,” LGB service members could not disclose their sexual orientation; if they did, discharge from the military was common. Transgender service members may currently serve openly; however, their ability to do so has been challenged by the Commander-in-Chief. Many SGM active duty military personnel choose to remain “closeted,” not disclosing their SGM status, due to fears about discrimination, stigma, harassment and violence.
Findings from the Military Acceptance Project conclude that perceived acceptance of SGM service members is lower than perceived acceptance of other minority groups (e.g., women, racial/ethnic minorities). In addition, perceived acceptance of SGM people was significantly lower among SGM people themselves compared to their heterosexual/cisgender peers. These findings suggest that SGM people in the military have subjective experiences that hinder perceptions of acceptance. These experiences may include fear of disclosure, stress experiences, harassment, discrimination, bullying, hazing, and sexual victimization. The proposed symposium seeks to understand these varied manifestations of lack of acceptance among SGM active duty military personnel.
The proposed symposium consists of five papers: (1) Dr. Schrager will describe the innovative respondent driven sampling (RDS) methods employed to recruit SGM active duty military personnel; (2) Katie McNamara and colleagues will describe disclosure experiences of SGM active-duty military service members; (3) Dr. Goldbach and colleagues will describe the multiple forms of discrimination and stigma levied at SGM people in the military as well as stress experiences related to sexual orientation and gender identity; (4) Dr. Castro and colleagues will describe experiences of hazing and bullying reported by participants; and (5) Ms. Schuyler and colleagues will explore sexual violence and victimization among SGM participants.
The symposium will conclude with an interactive dialogue between Military Acceptance Project investigators, the audience, and Ms. Kristen Kavanaugh, a former Marine captain and founder of a non-profit organization that promotes inclusiveness for military personnel who feel isolated from their peers for reasons of sexuality, race/ethnicity, religion or personal trauma. Led by Dr. Holloway, the symposium discussion will focus on developing in collaboration with the panel and audience participants, actionable policy recommendations to promote acceptance and integration of SGM people in the military.