by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
Last month, a writer at Courthouse News Service, a nationwide news service for lawyers and the news media based in Pasadena, California, wrote a controversial report saying biologically male U.S. veterans were twice as likely as their civilian counterparts to identify as female.
Adam Klasfeld spoke with George Brown, a former military psychologist, about the soon-to-be published study of more than five million service members.
No information has been released indicating whether the subjects of the study sought sex-reassignment surgery or more generally disassociate with the sex of their birth.
The study is a follow-up to Brown's 1988 paper, 'Transsexuals in the Military: Flight Into Hypermasculinity,' which relied on interviews with 11 service members who identify as male-to-female Transgender.
'A striking similarity was noted in the histories of nearly all of the military gender dysphorics,' the 1988 study states. 'They joined the service, in their words, 'to become a real man.'
'Flight Into Hypermasculinity' speculated that enlistment statistics could bear out the theory that male-to-female Transgender persons might enlist as a way of 'purging the feminine self.'
'Current military policies, in association with the proposed hypermasculine phase of Transsexual development, may actually result in a higher prevalence of Transsexualism in the military than in the civilian population,' the 1988 study theorized.
Brown, a veteran himself with 12 years of service in the U.S. Air Force and 13 years in the Department of Veterans Affairs, told CNS that his new research backs his 24-year-old hypothesis.
'I have data from a study I did in VA that demonstrates a prevalence double that in the nonmilitary population,' Brown wrote CNS in an email. 'It is unpublished data, pending presentation in San Francisco in the fall. It totally supports my 1988 work. The denominator in the study is over five million veterans. So, I am now confident that my early theory was correct.'
Brown, who has 118 scientific papers and abstracts under his belt, added that professional ethics prevent him from describing the study's data in further detail before its public presentation.
In his 1988 research, Brown cited figures from Laura Giat Roberto in Archives of Sexual Behavior that said Transsexualism among males has an incidence of between one in 37,000 and one in 100,000.
It is unclear at this point in time where Brown compiled his latest data.
Brown currently sits on the board of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH), which publishes the Standards of Care for Gender Identity Disorders recommended by the American Psychological Association.
Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center, a UCLA-affiliated research institute studying sexual minorities in the military, said he believes Brown's new study could make Transgender soldiers more visible to the public.
'People who oppose Transgender rights and LGBT rights more broadly would have you believe that there's no such thing as Transgender troops,' Belkin said.
Belkin added that he was struck in particular by the fact that Brown's 'path-breaking' study revealed that Transgender soldiers often volunteer for the most dangerous missions.
'Warrior identity and military masculinity are so revered in this society that people will do whatever it takes, including dying, to prove that they are 'real men,' he said. 'The fact that many [male-to-female] Transgender individuals join the military to prove that they are 'real men' is a sad testament to the culture's idealization of warrior masculinity.'
Belkin advocates for the military to repeal its ban on Transgender enlistment based on principle, not numbers.
'Transgender troops should be allowed to serve because that's what's good for the military, and that's what's democratic, not because they join at higher or lower rates,' Belkin said.
Eileen Lainez, a spokeswoman for the Pentagon, declined to comment on the findings of the unreleased study or speculate about how it could affect military policy. Instead, she stated the Department of Defense's position on Transgender service members.
'DoD regulations don't allow Transgender individuals to serve in the military, based upon medical standards for military service,' Lainez said.
Scientists outside the United States are studying how Transgender individuals have acclimated to militaries that no longer ban sexual and gender minorities, such as those in Canada, Israel, Spain, and Thailand.
A Canadian court struck down all military barriers against sexual and gender minorities in 1992 when challenged by intelligence officer Michelle Douglas, who was fired from the Special Investigations Unit for being a Lesbian.
Defense attorneys for Bradley Manning, the suspected source of the biggest intelligence leak in U.S. history, have argued that policies barring Transgender troops took a toll on their client's mental health.
At the Article 32 hearing, the military equivalent of a grand jury, an army investigator said Manning read about female facial reconstructive surgery and explored a female persona, 'Breanna,' on the Internet.
Defense attorneys say that the military's isolating policies led Manning to attack a superior officer and destroy military property.
Despite this line of argument, Manning's lawyers frame his alleged decision to disclose classified information as a matter of conscience, in informing the public about U.S. diplomacy and warfare through WikiLeaks.
For now, Manning reportedly has told his lawyers and the public to refer to him as male.
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