This morning, I attended a round table discussion at the Dallas VA hospital about how to improve VA service for trans vets locally. At this discussion were the director and assistant director of the hospital, as well as most of the other leading staff members there (we were just missing the head of nursing). I was one of three transgender vets there speaking of what VA service is like for us. The other two members of the panel are also VA employees, and one of them is the one who put together this meeting as part of her push to create a transgender health center there.
I’ve spoken to you all before of some of my horror stories with the VA, and initially it seemed that the audience was receptive, even shocked at how badly mistreated I’ve been. They promised to review the proposal for the trans health center and to try and improve things. However, there were a number of things that occurred during the meeting that bothered me, and leave me in such a position as to not expect much to come from this.
First, one of the panel members, the one putting forth the proposal, had a very anti-LGB attitude. She kept bringing up that the T is often tacked into the LGBT, but she also kept pointing out all the differences, even some that don’t really exist. “LGB is a sexual orientation, T is a gender identity.” “Being LGB doesn’t make any changes in your healthcare, aside from maybe some differences in mental health.” “The VA should focus more on the T than the LGB in gathering resources and care.”
Going beyond this, some of the members of the board that we were talking to were also kind of “well, it’s not our problem” in attitude. The director of customer service mentioned how when he gives diversity training, LGBT isn’t what’s controversial, religion is. He said that everyone was ok and on board with trans vets, they just needed to know what to do. Another member of the board excused the behavior of their staff by saying “this isn’t just a problem here, you face this kind of treatment in the rest of society as well.”
Basically, I hope that good comes from this, but it seems to me that both sides have their problems, and that there is going to be little progress in the near future. Hopefully things improve here, as there is an existing LGBT clinic in another city, and one of the psychologists on staff is starting a trans specific support group separate from his already existing LGBT group. The VA can do a lot, but I doubt it will, and that trans vets will continue to have to fight for every little bit we can get.
Any other trans vets here? What are your experiences with the VA where you live?