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Perceptions of family acceptance into the military community among U.S. LGBT service members: A mixed-methods study

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Katherine Sullivan, Jessica Dodge, Kathleen McNamara, Rachael Gribble, Mary Keeling, Sean Taylor-Beirne , Caroline Kale, Jeremy Goldbach, Nicola Fear, Carl A. Castro

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)90-101
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Military, Veteran and Family Health
Early online date13 Jul 2021
E-pub ahead of print13 Jul 2021
PublishedSep 2021

King's Authors


Introduction: Despite calls to increase representation of diverse family structures in military family research, little is known about the experiences of the families of lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) service members (SMs). Using minority stress theory and a mixed-methods design, this study considers LGBT SMs' perceptions of family acceptance within the military community. Methods: Survey data from 115 LGBT SMs who have a spouse or partner, a child or children, or both and qualitative data from 42 LGBT SMs who participated in semi-structured interviews were used. Demographic information, perceived family acceptance by the SM's unit, leadership, and duty station, and beliefs about the appropriateness of military services for LGBT families were examined. Results: Many LGBT SMs, in both quantitative and qualitative findings, felt their families were accepted, although many still perceived a lack of acceptance, particularly regarding appropriateness of military family support services. No differences in perceived family acceptance were noted across sexual and gender identity categories. LGBT SMs who reported lower acceptance were more likely to report concerns about their family's safety and the appropriateness of family support services, as well as increased physical and mental health symptoms. Discussion: These findings shed light on the experiences of LGBT military families and highlight both successes, with respect to inclusion, and areas for more scrutiny. Results raise particular concerns about supportive services that are perceived to be inappropriate for LGBT families. Evaluating LGBT families' use of supportive services, barriers to accessing services, and outcomes of these experiences should be prioritized.

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