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Transgender Military Service Examined With $1.35 Million Grant

By Jase Peeples

The Palm Center, the research institute which coordinated research into the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for more than 10 years, has received a $1.35 million grant to study transgender service in the U.S. armed forces over the next three years, reports BuzzFeed.

The Palm Center’s Transgender Military Initiative project director, Indra Lusero, has commissioned 11 studies to be conducted by 16 scholars, that will investigate whether the inclusion of trans troops in the military would undermine readiness of the U.S. armed forces.

Areas studied will range from experiences of foreign militaries and sports programs, to privacy and medical accommodations.

“This academic research will inform an important public conversation by providing facts and evidence about transgender military service and gender expression in armed forces," Lusero told BuzzFeed. "Militaries around the world are updating their policies, and we are already conducting research in Canada, Britain and Australia to learn whether their trans-inclusive regulations have impacted readiness."

Under current U.S. military regulations, openly acknowledging a transgender identity or any gender-affirming surgeries or medical procedures disqualifies a service member, since gender dysphoria is technically classified by the military as a mental illness. 

Nathaniel Frank, a former scholar with the Palm Center and the author of Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America, welcomed the news, telling BuzzFeed the grant was “major initiative by a key player who educated the public on gay military service.”

The Transgender Military Initiative is the most comprehensive and largest research project conducted on trans service in the U.S. armed forces to date, according to the Palm Center.

“It’s absolutely something we need to do,” Frank told BuzzFeed. “I think it shouldn’t take as long as [the repeal of] ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’, but I do think that that research piece of the puzzle does need to be put into place.”

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