Acceptance matters: Disengagement and attrition among LGBT personnel in the U.S. military
McNamara, K. A., Gribble, R., Sharp, M., Alday, E., Corletto, G., Lucas, C. L., Castro, C. A., Fear, N. T., Goldbach, J. T., & Holloway, I. W. (2021). Acceptance matters: Disengagement and attrition among LGBT personnel in the U.S. military. Journal of Military, Veteran and Family Health, 7(S1), 76-89. https://doi.org/10.3138/jmvfh-2021-0017
Abstract Created by REACH:
Using a sample of 544 active-duty Service members, this study compared the military career intentions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT; n = 248) and nonLGBT (n = 296) Service members. More specifically, this study examined how sexual orientation, gender identity (e.g., male, female, transgender), demographic factors (e.g., years of service, deployment history, race, ethnicity), unit cohesion, and perceptions of LGBT inclusion were associated with career intentions (i.e., leave, undecided, or stay in the military). Overall, differences in career intentions emerged for LGBT and non-LGBT Service members, but important demographic factors (e.g., deployment history) and relational factors (e.g., unit cohesion) also influenced these intentions.
Branch of Service:
Active duty service member
Young adulthood (18 - 29 yrs)
Adulthood (18 yrs & older)
Thirties (30 - 39 yrs)
Middle age (40 - 64 yrs)
McNamara, Kathleen A., Rachael, Gribble, Sharp, Marie-Louise, Alday, Eva, Corletto, Giselle, Lucas, Carrie L., Castro, Carl A., Fear, Nicola T., Goldbach, Jeremy T., Holloway, Ian W.
Introduction: The U.S. military has undergone profound changes in its policies toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) service members (SMs) over the past decade. Although emerging evidence indicates that some LGBT SMs perceive their coworkers as supportive, a sizable group report continued victimization, harassment, and fear of disclosing their LGBT identity. Because employee perception of cohesion and belonging affects retention in the workplace, such discrimination is likely to affect retention of LGBT military personnel. Methods: Survey data come from a study funded by the U.S. Department of Defense (2017-2018) and completed by 544 active-duty SMs (non-LGBT n = 296; LGBT n = 248). Multinomial logistic regressions were used to examine military career intentions among SMs according to socio-demographics, perceived acceptance, and unit climate. Results: One in 3 transgender SMs plan to leave the military upon completion of their service commitment, compared with 1 in 5 cisgender LGB SMs and 1 in 8 non-LGBT SMs. LGBT SMs were twice as likely as non-LGBT SMs to be undecided about their military career path after controlling for confounding variables. Lower perceived LGBT acceptance was associated with a higher risk of attrition among LGBT SMs. Lower perceived unit cohesion was associated with attrition risk for all SMs. Discussion: These findings suggest that, although some LGBT SMs may feel accepted, the U.S. military could do more to improve its climate of acceptance to prevent attrition, especially for transgender SMs. Taking measures to prioritize unit cohesion would improve retention of qualified LGBT and non-LGBT SMs.
U.S. Air Force, Nellis Air Force Base, KAM
U.S. Air Force, Nellis Air Force Base, CLL
King’s Centre for Military Health Research, King’s College London, TG
King’s Centre for Military Health Research, King’s College London, MLS
King’s Centre for Military Health Research, King’s College London, NTF
Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, University of Southern California, EA
Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, University of Southern California, GC
Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, University of Southern California, CAC
Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, University of Southern California, JTG
Department of Social Welfare, University of California, Los Angeles, IWH
REACH Publication Type:
UK Ministry of Defence