The Chula Vista (California) Veterans Home hosted its first gay marriage this past week.
John Banvard, 95 and a World War II veteran, married his partner of 20 years, Gerard Nadeau, 67, who served in Vietnam, at their home of three years, the Chula Vista Veterans Home.
Fox 5 reported, “Many of the couple’s friends who live at the veteran’s home attended the small and simple ceremony.” However, the facility also held a town hall meeting prior to the ceremony “to address concerns from other residents.”
You can read the article and see a short video at http://fox5sandiego.com/2013/09/12/senior-facility-holds-first-ever-gay-wedding/#axzz2f53QhYTe
And another one falls!
A California judge has ruled that the portion of the U.S. Code governing veterans benefits is unconstitutional and unenforceable in its definition of marriage, which excludes same-sex couples.
The ruling will enable same-sex military couples to access benefits available to other married couples.
The article is available at http://www.buzzfeed.com/chrisgeidner/federal-judge-strikes-down-law-barring-same-sex-couples-from
Did 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
Have you seen SAGE’s new blog? (It’s at http://blog.sageusa.org/) The Huffington Post has, yesterday reposting “Moving on From Hurricane Sandy: One Older Gay Man’s Story of Love and Loss” (at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/damien-wade/moving-on-hurricane-sandy_b_2677278.html)
The article is about James McCormick, 72, and his partner David Maxwell, 65, a couple of five years’ standing. James, a stroke survivor, was living safely in a nursing home when Hurricane Sandy hit Staten Island and drowned David in their home. The balance of the article, written by James’ SAGE Case Manager Damien Wade, talks about how a variety of agencies, officials, and individuals have come together to support James and help him bury David. Veterans Affairs not only paid for David’s burial (he was a Vietnam vet), but also paid for James’ transportation to the funeral and gave him the flag the Armed Forces and the President provided for David’s funeral. Today it hangs in James’ room at the nursing home.
SAGE is currently working to arrange transportation for James so he can attend SAGE programming at the Staten Island LGBT Community Center. Damien concludes, “Hurricane Sandy changed James’ life. It impacted us all. In times like these, we are reminded of the power in our communities when we band together to help one another.”
There are both practical and symbolic aspects to today’s end of the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy requiring lesbian, gay, and bisexual people to not come out in the military, or face discharge.
From an aging standpoint, the most important reason to applaud the policy change is that LGBT people are far more likely to be veterans than are heterosexual, non-transgender people. Although about 13% of adult Americans served in the military, unpublished data from the Caring and Aging with Pride national LGBT aging survey indicate that more than one-quarter of LGBT older adults are veterans. Although LGBT veterans are not denied Veterans Administration (VA) benefits, the existence of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell surely made it more difficult for them to push for benefits, services, or respect. The change should make their lives easier.
It is absolutely critical to note, however, that transgender service members are still not protected. Transgender people in the military who disclose their gender identity can still be discharged. Lest you think this can’t affect very many people, surveys are showing that high numbers of transgender people are military veterans. For instance, the Caring and Aging with Pride survey mentioned above found that 41% of transgender respondents were veterans, a rate 61% higher than the LGB respondents. The National Center on Transgender Equality and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Injustice as Every Turn survey found that 54% of transgender respondents age 65 and up were veterans. Luckily, transgender veterans recently received a major assist from the Obama Administration, which issued new guidance requiring the VA to treat such veterans with respect. (To learn more, see the GrayPrideParade post of June 14, “New Transgender Veterans’ Health Care Guidelines.”)
Only one of the featured veterans is over 60 (70, to be specific), but advocates may still find of interest a recent OutFront article, “Home of the Brave: LGBT Veterans share their stories for Pride.”
Available at http://outfrontcolorado.com/ofcblog/news/home-of-the-brave-honoring-lgbt-veterans/, the simple but powerful article features black-and-white portraits and one-paragraph descriptions of five Colorado veterans. (It is important to note that the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell will not protect transgender veterans.)
The Veterans Administration has issued a Directive to all of its facilities requiring them to provide respectful, confidential healthcare to transgender veterans, including providing hormones and mental health care.
In its fact sheet about the new Directive, the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) correctly notes that not only is the new Directive “an important first step in securing equal access for transgender veterans,” but it also sets “an example of how healthcare providers in both the public and private sector should be treating transgender patients.” The main features of the new Directive, NCTE’s fact sheet continues, include:
- All VA staff are to provide care to transgender patients “without discrimination in a manner consistent with care and management of all Veteran patients;”
- States that all personal information about transgender status and medical care is to be kept confidential;
- A reiteration that, under existing regulations, sex reassignment surgery cannot be performed or paid for by the VA; and
- Reiterates that all other medically necessary healthcare for transgender veterans is covered, including sex-specific care like mammograms and pap smears, as well as transition-related care such as hormones and mental health services.