Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Report: Transgender Vets Face Discrimination & Obstacles

The current issue of Air Force Times includes a great summary of a new study, from the Michael D. Palm Center at UC-Santa Barbara, regarding the experiences of America's transgender veterans. The study, conducted in coordination with the Transgender American Veterans Association, found that transgender veterans face significant obstacles along their path to take advantage of the hard-earned and well-deserved benefits they accrued during their service to our country.

Monica Helms, TAVA's president, told the Times that "most of those who began a gender change while in the military were near the end of their service obligations and worked in isolated assignments so they did not call attention to themselves."

"Only about 30 percent of those surveyed used VA hospitals, most of them men who became women, were 46 or older and had annual incomes of $30,000 or less," the paper reports. The survey also included insights from 18 individuals who said they began transitioning genders while still serving in uniform.

Among the findings?

- Transgender reported problems even getting care routinely provided to other veterans, such as pap smears, prostate exams, hysterectomies and mastectomies;

- VA medical staff often refused to use the gender-appropriate pronoun he or she for the new sexual identity of a transgender veteran and sometimes would not even look at them; and

- Transgender personnel had a difficult time while in the military, with repeated inquiries about their sexual orientation.

“We did our time,” Helms told the Times. “What happened to us after we got out doesn’t have anything to do with whether we deserve care.”

We couldn't have said it better ourselves. Our country's transgender patriots have made every sacrifice Americans are asked to make when they sign up for duty . . . and then some. It is unconscionable prejudice to exclude them from - or put up barriers to - the benefits and care they have so courageously earned. And it dishonors their service to discriminate against them after all they have done for our country. We can, and must, do better.

To read the full Air Force Times story, click here. And for the entire report on the experiences of transgender veterans, visit the Palm Center online.

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