Acceptance matters: Disengagement and attrition among LGBT personnel in the U.S. Military

Kathleen A. McNamara, Rachael Gribble, Marie-Louise Sharp, Eva Alday, Giselle Corletto, Carrie L. Lucas, Carl A. Castro, Nicola T. Fear, Jeremy T. Goldbach, Ian W. Holloway

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
65 Downloads (Pure)


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 co-workers 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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)76-89
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Military, Veteran and Family Health
Issue numbers1
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021


  • Attrition
  • Bisexual
  • Gay
  • Lesbian
  • LGBT
  • LGBT inclusive policies
  • Military
  • Military health
  • Retention
  • Sexual and gender minorities
  • Transgender
  • U.S
  • Unit cohesion


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