Since summer 2020, the Modern Military Association of America (MMAA) has been working to update the latest edition of Freedom to Serve: The Definitive Guide to LGBTQ Military Service. This newly updated guidebook provides important resources to LGBTQ recruits, military personnel, veterans, and their families. Now in its third edition, Freedom to Serve remains the most comprehensive such resource to date.
Originally a publication of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), the first edition of Freedom to Serve was published shortly after the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2011. The second edition was published seven years later in 2018, and it contained updates about changes made during the Obama administration. Authored by Dr. Dorian Rhea Debussy (she/her) of the Dept. of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at The Ohio State University, work on the third edition began in summer 2020 and concluded in spring 2023. This new edition contains comprehensive updates from both the Trump and Biden administrations.
In November 2020, the Biden Presidential Transition Team requested an advance draft copy of the third edition of Freedom to Serve. MMAA gladly provided the draft document with the intent of helping the Biden administration’s efforts to remove discriminatory policies put in place under the Trump administration. Following changes to these policies under the Biden administration, revisions to the advance draft copy of the third edition were made from early 2021 to early 2023. Now, MMAA is proud to publish this new edition, which includes the latest information for LGBTQ military personnel, veterans, and their families.
Regarding the early impact of this resource, Dr. Dorian Rhea Debussy, author of the third edition of Freedom to Serve, stated: “The Biden administration’s early interest in the new edition of Freedom to Serve has already helped to create a positive impact for LGBTQ+ — and especially transgender – servicemembers, veterans, and their families. I’m thankful for the opportunity to author the third edition. I hope that this comprehensive document will continue to serve as a resource servicemembers, veterans, and policymakers alike.”
MMAA shares that Freedom to Serve has nearly doubled in size since its last publication in 2017. The latest edition also contains new sections and resources. Examples of such changes include the following:
- Expanded and updated information about open service for transgender people;
- Updated information on how servicemembers can access HIV prevention resources, such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP);
- New information pertaining to veterans benefits and LGBTQ inclusive care through the VA;
- Relevant updates for servicemembers living with HIV, including discussions about recent circuit court updates;
- An expanded roster of resources with new resource recommendations for intersex, asexual, and aromantic people among others;
- Recommendations for how the Dept. of Defense (DoD) can continue to support the needs of LGBTQ servicemembers and veterans; and more.
Regarding the new additions made to the third edition, Rachel Branaman, interim executive director for MMAA, stated: “MMAA is pleased to share the updated and expanded version of the Freedom to Serve guide, particularly during a time when transgender military service is not codified into law, people living with HIV are banned from joining the military, and there are continued efforts by Congress to limit or prohibit essential healthcare for LGBTQ+ military members, veterans, and their families. This is an essential toolkit for LGBTQ+ military personnel, veterans, and their families to know their rights as well as a resource for policymakers to remove barriers for military service and access to the benefits that servicemembers and veterans have earned for their service to our country.”
The LGBTQ community is highly represented within the armed forces with 5% of active-duty personnel identifying as LGB and 1% identifying as transgender. For reference, 3% of Americans openly identify as LGB and .06% identify as transgender. Furthermore, studies show that 20% of transgender people have served in the military, which is double the percentage of the U.S. general population.
Download the new edition here.
The Modern Military Association of America
The MMAA is the nation’s largest organization for LGBTQ service members, military spouses, veterans, and allies. Formed through the merger of the American Military Partner Association and OutServe-SLDN, MMAA is a united voice for the LGBTQ military and veteran community. Find out more at www.ModernMilitary.org.