Survey reveals Veterans
discriminates against Transgender
Monica F. Helms
The Palm Center at
the University of California, Santa Barbara has
released the findings of a survey, conducted by
Transgender American Veterans Association (TAVA), that
shows that transgender veterans are being turned away
and being mistreated in high numbers by Veterans
Administration medical facilities. The survey,
with 827 transgender veteran participants, was
conducted from December 13, 2007 to May 1, 2008.
This represents a strong sampling from what is
estimated to be approximately 300,000 veterans in the
US who identify as being transgender.
Dr. Jeanne Scheper
Palm Center at the University of
California, Santa Barbara coordinated the report and
Dr. Bonnie Moradi, Associate Professor of Psychology
at the University
of Florida did the analyzing. Dr. Gary
Gates, Senior Research Fellow at the Williams
Institute, University of California
acted as a consultant and provided guidance for
survey. Professors Karl Bryant, PhD, of the State
University of New York, New Paltz, NY
and Kristen Schilt, PhD, of the University
of Chicago, Chicago, IL, wrote the
White Paper report. Notice that four universities in
various parts of the country contributed to the
creation of this report.
The most troubling
figure to come out of the survey was that 10% of
transgender veterans, who currently use the VA, have
at one time been turned away from receiving any
service or medical help. I see this figure as being
very disturbing. We served our country honorably and
proudly and the VA medical benefits we earned should
not be denied or diminished simply because of the
direction our lives took after discharge from active
Other figures and
interesting information came from the report:
" . . .
nearly one third of the survey participants
reported having experienced some form of
discrimination in the workplace, with
approximately the same amount (31%) reporting
that they believed they had not been hired for
a job specifically because they were
transgender. A full 15% reported that they had
been fired from a job for being transgender
(with 40% of those people having been fired
more than once). Nearly 10% reported
experiencing open, blatant discrimination from
an employer or prospective employer; they were
explicitly told that they were being fired (or
not hired) because they were
addition to discrimination, this group
reported a high percentage of experiences with
interpersonal violence. 26% reported having
been the victim of physical violence, and 16%
reported having been raped."
Members and the "Donít Ask, Donít Tell"
38% reported that when they were in the
military, people suspected or directly asked
if they were gay. In addition, 14% had been
questioned by an officer about their sexual
orientation. For younger respondents (aged
18-35), all of whom had served under DADT,
this finding was even more pronounced: 61%
reported that when they were in the military,
people suspected or directly asked if they
were gay; 20% had been questioned by an
officer about their sexual orientation."
What the survey also
brought up was how disproportionate trans men are
being targeted under DADT then their trans sisters.
effects varied significantly by gender.
Transmen were almost two times more likely to
report they were suspected of being gay than
transwomen (72% vs. 37%). They were three
times more likely than transwomen to have been
asked by an officer about their sexual
orientation (33% vs. 11%)."
VA Medical Facility
". . .
there were many reports of interpersonal
discrimination, via lack of respect from VA
doctors (22%), non-medical staff (21%), and
nurses (13%). These cases of interpersonal
discrimination ranged from what many veterans
describe as "typical" Ė refusing
to change to gender-appropriate pronouns,
failure to use a new name consistently Ė to
the extreme Ė refusing to look at
transgender patients, referring to them in
dismissive ways, refusing to treat them for
general medical care. One FTM respondent
noted, ĎI was told by a religious clerk
that I should just go away because I was an
insult to the brave real men who were there
for treatmentí. Another MTF respondent
noted, ĎI am asked about my genitals and
my plans for SRS regardless of whether or not
it has relevance to my treatmentí."
" . . .
one MTF respondent recounted the following
experience: ĎA nurse pulled my partner
out in the hall of the VA Hospital where I was
an in-patientí [and said], ĎYou know that
is really a man, donít youí?"
There were several
Implications and Recommendations that came out of this
all of the above areas of
discussion. The one thing that appeared in that
section was a section
from the VAís
dedicated to providing high quality,
comprehensive health care to veterans in an
environment that fosters trust, respect,
commitment, compassion and excellence. We
serve as a major resource for health services,
education and research that benefit our
patients, their families, the community, the
network and the nation."
As far as Iím
concerned, the VA has a very long way to go to live up
to that mission statement when it comes to this
countryís transgender veterans.
Finally, the survey
showed how transgender people are treated while they
are serving this country. Many felt harassment and
abuse by others and were investigated for being gay
regardless of what sexual orientation was at the time.
It shows that transgender service members can no
longer be ignored in the discussion of the repeal of
Donít Ask, Donít Tell. We are also a target under
that failed policy and people pushing for its repeal
need to realize that we have to be included.
In conclusion, I
hope that this new document will help in our
continuous struggles to become equally treated while
serving in the military, equally treated while using
the VA and considered equal citizens in the great
country of ours. We served this country and we served
After three and a
half months of dribbling out raw data for things such
as job discrimination, violence and statistics
associated with Donít Ask, Donít Tell, the
Transgender Veterans Survey Report has now been
published. You can read the entire report on the Transgender
American Veterans Association web site.
Some of the information I will present here has been
seen before, while other statistics will be revealed
for the first time.
The idea for the
survey was presented to the TAVA Board in mid November
of 2007 and after creating 117 questions, the Board
approved the survey and we placed it on SurveyMonkey.com,
a web site that has an excellent reputation with those
who conduct surveys. The survey started on December
13, 2007 and ended on May 1, 2008. Between May and
August, the Palm Center located a person to analyze
the data and then located two people who could write
the report. Even thought it took three and a half
months for the Palm Center to finish the report, this
is record time compared to how long this process
Again, the full
report can be read at Transgender
American Veterans Association web site.
2008 Gay Military Signal