Monday, July 30, 2012

Military Men Twice as Likely to Be Transgender as Civilians

I found this article on Queerty. According to their post, it seems that military men are twice as likely as civilian men to report transgender identification. They found the article at Courthouse News Service and summarized its main points. However, they neglected to mention that the new results are as yet unpublished (pending presentation at a conference, according to the author).

Still, the researcher involved, George R. Brown, M.D., Capt. USAF, contends that the new research supports his prior study (1988), Transsexuals in the Military: Flight Into Hypermasculinity (available online).

Here are some comments from that paper:
Intuitively, one would assume that the prevalence of severe gender dysphoria and, specifically transsexualism, would be low in the military - certainly lower than in the civilian population. Surely, a male who is gender dysphoric and engages in cross-gender activities and possibly sexual activity with other males would not voluntarily submit himself to a system known for its staunch intolerance of deviancy in any form, whether it be homosexuality, long hair, or wrinkled uniforms.

* * * *
The transsexual "flight into femininity" is well-described by Steiner et al. (1978) as a possible phase observed in middle adulthood applicants for sex reassignment surgery. It is clear that in the cases above, and in others I am aware of anecdotally (e.g., 6 transsexual fighter pilots; Lothstein, personal communication, 1986), a diametrically opposed phenomenon may be occurring: a "flight into hypermasculinity." For some, the mere act of enlisting was not enough. In the first case described above the patient deliberately chose the path of greatest danger while in the service: He elected to leave the relative safety of his laboratory technician job and apply for combat helicopter pilot training at the peak of the Viet Nam war, when this was an extremely high-mortality position. Another patient in this sample graduated second in his class at Officer's Candidate School. He volunteered for Special Warfare School, became a Green Beret, and saw extensive combat in Viet Nam and Thailand, completing 4 years of active duty in the Army. In addition to these cases, the military experiences of several well-known transsexual individuals are well-documented in their autobiographies (Cowell, 1954; Jorgensen, 1967; Morris, 1974; Richards, 1983).
He posits that men who are beginning to sense their "gender dysphoria" would seek out hypermasculine identities as a way to prove to themselves - and to others - that they are "real" men. There is no better place to do that than in the military - and even more so if one volunteers for the more dangerous assignments.

It's sad to me that anyone would feel so threatened by their gender identity that they might risk death to prove themselves "normal," whatever the hell that is.

You can also read the Report of the APA Task Force on Gender Identity and Gender Variance.

Here is some of the Courthouse News Service article:

Transgenderism More Likely in Military, Study Finds

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

(CN) - Biologically male U.S. veterans were twice as likely as their civilian counterparts to identify as female, a former military psychologist told Courthouse News, discussing a soon-to-be-published study of more than 5 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 by psychologist George Brown follows up on his 1988 paper, "Transsexuals in the Military: Flight Into Hypermasculinity," which relied on interviews with 11 service members who identify as male-to-female transgender, meaning that they were born as biological males but identify as female. Many prefer the umbrella term transgender over the more narrow descriptor transsexual, which usually implies surgical alteration.

"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 transsexuals 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, now says 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 told Courthouse News 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 5 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.

Read the whole article.


Anonymous said...

It's sad to me that anyone would feel so threatened by their gender identity that they might risk death to prove themselves "normal," whatever the hell that is.

I imagine that for some the possibility of death is part of the draw to military service and specifically to high-mortality assignments. A heroic death could be seen as a noble option for someone dealing with the pain and shame of not being at peace with their own gender.

Anonymous said...

This doesn't surprise me in the least--for the exact reasons stated above. Same reason men hunt & have to drive Corvettes--to try and make up for something they percieve as an inadequacy. Shame that people can't just be themselves without trying to convince everyone that they're macho. Just be yourself.