Tag Archives: Transgender

Trans People, Marriage, and Social Security

social security cardAfter sustained lobbying by the National Center for Transgender Equality and others and after Robina Asti’s public statement (see http://www.grayprideparade.com/2014/01/29/i-was-shocked-i-was-shamed/), the Social Security Administration has finally issued guidance telling staff to automatically assume that most marriages involving transgender people are valid.

Of course, given the mish-mash we currently have with some states refusing to recognize other states’ “same-sex” marriages and some states’ bad decisions concerning the legal gender of transgender people, the guidance is complicated.  The guidance now requires Social Security staff to determine where the marriage was performed and if the sex change took place before or after the marriage.  If the sex change took place before the marriage and the transgender person currently lives in (or died in) American Samoa, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Ohio, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, Tennessee, Texas, or the Virgin Islands, a legal opinion about the validity of the marriage is still required.  Otherwise, marriages involving transgender people are to be treated under existing rules for opposite-sex and same-sex marriages, bypassing the current procedure of referring all marriages involving transgender people to legal counsel.

The actual bureaucratic memo is available at https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/public/reference.nsf/links/03252014040307PM  (Trigger warning: in discussing sample cases, the memo uses typical bureaucratizee about applicants “alleging” personal facts.)

“I Was Shocked, I Was Shamed”

Robina Asti 92 yo transwomanThat’s how Robina Asti, 92, described her response when the Social Security Administration denied her benefits as the widow of Norwood Patton.

Although Robina transitioned genders decades before her marriage to Patton in 2004, the Social Security Administration ruled her marriage wasn’t valid when it was entered into because “she was not legally a woman,” and so denied her request.

While the case itself is important enough to write about, what is really remarkable is the 7-1/2 minute video Lambda Legal made of Robina.  This lovely portrait beautifully highlights her love of flying as well as her occupational and romantic history.  She says, “I have lived a very private life, but the SSA is forcing me to speak out.  I don’t want other people to have to experience this.”

Lambda Legal is representing her in her struggle with the Social Security Administration, an effort that will benefit many, many marriages involving trans people and their partners when it is — as it inevitably must be — won.  In the meantime, however, Robina and Lambda Legal deserve many thanks for a really remarkable oral history.  Make sure you check it out:  http://www.lambdalegal.org/blog/20140129_robina-asti-92-year-old-transgender-widow

“I Never Knew a Transgender Person Could Be…Somewhat Valuable Within a Church”

Rosie Del MarYet another aging-related piece in this week’s Advocate is “Op-ed: 72, Transgender, and Finally Myself,” a profile of Rosie Del Mar.

Del Mar’s story is similar to some others of her age in that she describes multiple life phases in which she tried to live in different genders and sexual orientations, with corresponding changes in the ways she could make a living.  What makes her story different from some other trans elders’ is the kinds and amounts of support she experienced, which included multiple church homes and, now, an affordable living complex for LGBT elders.  Still, even with the support she’s found, she was surprised five years ago when she was asked to become a deacon at her latest church.  “I never knew a transgender person could be looked upon as somewhat valuable within a church,” she said.

The article is available at http://www.advocate.com/commentary/2013/08/28/op-ed-72-transgender-and-finally-myself

New Report on Trans Veterans

TAVA logoDid you know that transgender people are twice as likely to be veterans as non-trans people?

A new report, based on the 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey, discusses the findings of 1,261 people who reported being both transgender or gender non-conforming and having served in the military at some point.  This was 20% of the overall survey respondents, a figure that is twice the 10% military service rate of the overall U.S. population.

The findings include:

  • Trans veterans were more likely than non-veterans to have lost a job (36%), not been hired (53%), and have experienced on-the-job harassment (54%), physical violence (9%) and sexual assault (8%) because of their gender identity or history.
  • Trans veterans were more likely than non-veteran trans people to have been evicted from their home or apartment due to bias (14%) and to have experienced homelessness (18%).
  • Nine percent of those who had served had been discharged because of being transgender or gender nonconforming.

The report, “Still Serving in Silence: Transgender Service Members in the National Transgender Discrimination Survey,” is available free at http://www.thetaskforce.org/downloads/reports/reports/still_serving_in_silence.pdf

Bathroom Politics

public-restroomsEveryone needs them, which may be why they have been the site of so many pitched political battles:  bathrooms.

Interestingly, the battles usually revolve around “safety.”  When some people wanted human races kept separate, they argued that blacks and whites had different germs and/or hygiene practices, and that having them use the same facilities would lead to the spread of disease.  Now the argument for segregation seems to revolve around women’s “safety,” which apparently is assured by never, ever allowing an adult male to use the same facilities.

Any segregation, of course, involves formal and/or informal policing, and the forced assignment of people into distinctly separate categories.  That’s why the simple right of transgender people to pee in facilities built specifically for that purpose has so often been challenged or denied: if men have to be kept out of women’s bathrooms, then we have to determine who a man is.  Apparently, that cannot be decided by the person him- or herself; instead, something else — a body part, a government identity document, manner of dress or appearance — is the determinant.  Or so the lawsuits, arrests, and civilian bathroom-rules-enforcers insist.

As society battles out these issues over who is safe and who isn’t and who is allowed to “go” where, though, real casualties mount.  Actual people get hurt.  A new study recently released by The Williams Institute begins to quantify the damage: it reports that in a survey of transgender and gender non-conforming people in Washington, D.C., 70% reported having been denied access, verbally harassed, or physically assaulted in public restrooms.  The damage didn’t stop there: many of these victims reported negative ramifications of bathroom denial or abuse on their education, their employment, their health, and their participation in public life.  You can read more about it at http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/Herman-Gendered-Restrooms-and-Minority-Stress-June-2013.pdf


Australia Gets Transgender Aged Care Specialist

LGBT-flag-map-of-AustraliaAs part of the Australian government’s effort to ensure its Living Longer Living Better aged care reform plan reaches everyone, funding has been provided to the Gender Centre Incorporated to hire a Transgender Aged Care Specialist Support Officer.

The new position will focus on “front line crisis management, psycho-social and community support,” training, and providing referrals.  It is part of the government’s National LGBTI Ageing and Aged Care Strategy.  You can read more at http://anthonyalbanese.com.au/better-care-for-older-lgbti-australians-in-inner-west

ElderTG Members in Long Feature Article

Robyn and Emery1As you may or may not know, www.GrayPrideParade.com is sponsored by FORGE, which also sponsors the Transgender Aging Network and our now 15-year-old peer support listserve for trans people age 50+, ElderTG.

Two of our most illustrious ElderTG members, Robyn and Emery Walters, are the stars of a long feature article in the most recent edition of The Gay & Lesbian Review.  Check out their pre- and post-transition pictures and life stories in, “Portrait of a Transgender Marriage,” at http://www.glreview.org/article/portrait-of-a-transgender-marriage-2/

If you are interested in subscribing to ElderTG or to our sister listserve for professionals and others who are interested in transgender aging issues, email LoreeCD [at] aol [dot] com

Social Security Gender Change Changes

social security cardThe Social Security Administration (SSA) recently issued new guidelines that make it far easier for transpeople to change their gender marker.

Previously, changing the gender marker on your Social Security account generally required proof of having undergone sex reassignment surgery; no more!  Now people can update their gender marker using any of four documents:

  • A U.S. passport showing the correct gender;
  • A birth certificate showing the correct gender;
  • A court order recognizing the correct gender; or
  • A signed letter from a physician stating the person “has had appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition to (the new male or female) gender.”

The physician letter does not have to specify what clinical treatment has been done, and what is “appropriate” can remain private between the patient and their doctor.  The physician letter needs to be on the physician’s letterhead, include their medical license or certificate number and the jurisdiction that issued it, and the statement, “I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the United States that the foregoing is true and correct.”

The National Center for Transgender Equality has written a plain-English fact sheet that includes additional details and links for those who are interested.  It’s available at http://www.transequality.org/Resources/SSAResource_June2013.pdf

Jakarta Home for Aging Trans “Waria”

Yulianus RettoblautYulianus Rettoblaut, 51 and the first transgender person to earn a law degree from an Islamic university, has opened her home to other aging Indonesian “waria,” according to an article and video available at http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/02/20/worlds-first-home-for-transgender-elderly/

Waria combines the Indoensian word for woman (wanita) and the word for man (pria).  Between 3 and 12 waria live at the home (the video and article contradict each other), with as many as 800 on a waiting list.  Government funds will provide some food subsidies, while 70 churches are said to provide some support (mostly shelter during floods).

The 7-minute video interviews Rettoblaut and several of her residents and includes stories about her brother’s rejection and ultimate reconciliation.  The article also address opposition from the Islamic Defenders Front.

Research Journal on LGBT Health Being Launched

stethoscope-2A promising new academic journal focused on health issues affecting LGBT people of all ages, LGBT Health, is due to launch later this year.

The editorial board line-up bodes well for coverage of aging issues and, especially, transgender issues.  Brian de Vries, Ph.D., longtime LGBT aging researcher at San Francisco State University, is one such member.  Many familiar transgender researchers have been recruited, as well, including A. Evan Eyler, M.D., Louis Gooren, Ph.D., and Sam Winter, Ph.D.

Sign up for email notices of the publication of LGBT Health editions by emailing journalmarketing3 [at] liebertpub [dot] com.  For a news release on the journal, surf to http://www.sciencecodex.com/new_lgbt_health_journal_launching_in_2013-105787