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Challenges Faced by LGBTQA+ Service Members and Veterans

LGBTQA+ Service members and veterans represent a unique demographic within both the military and veteran populations. While progress has been made, these individuals often face significant discrimination, healthcare, mental health, and social acceptance challenges.

Nearly one in four U.S. servicewomen reports being sexually assaulted in the military.

Of those that do report, 64% expressed that they were retaliated against for reporting.  

For decades, sexual assault and harassment have festered through the ranks of the armed forces with military leaders repeatedly promising reform and then failing to live up to those promises. 

Women remain a distinct minority, making up only 16.5 percent of the armed services, yet nearly one in four servicewomen reports experiencing sexual assault in the military, and more than half report experiencing harassment, according to a meta-analysis of 69 studies published in 2018 in the journal Trauma, Violence & Abuse. (Men are victims of assault and harassment, too, though at significantly lower rates than women.)

After their attacks, victims also rarely see justice. Of the more than 6,200 sexual-assault reports made by United States service members in fiscal year 2020, only 50 — 0.8 percent — ended in sex-offense convictions under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, roughly one-third as many convictions as in 2019. 

From 2009 to 2015, more than 22 percent of service members who left the military after reporting a sexual assault received a less-than-fully-honorable discharge, according to a 2016 investigation by the Department of Defense’s Office of the Inspector General. That’s nearly one and a half times more than the percentage of overall service members who received less-than-fully-honorable discharges from 2002 to 2013, according to data compiled in a March 2016 report by Swords to Plowshares, a veterans advocacy group.

And this is not a new issue.  

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