Transprogressive: My appeal to the VA resolved; my sex marker will change soonBottom Highlights, Online Only, Trans Progressive Thursday, October 25th, 2012
BY AUTUMN SANDEEN
In a recent San Diego LGBT Weekly column, “What good is improved VA gender policy if it’s inaccessible?” I wrote about how I was pretty much the only transgender military veteran in the United States who was unable to take advantage of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA‘s) new policy for changing sex markers.
In that column I spoke about how a new treatment policy for disabled transgender military veterans was released June 2011, and about how one of the policy’s intent’s was to make it easier for transgender people to change their VA sex marker. The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) did the heavy lift of getting the VA‘s healthcare policy changed, and I was the test veteran to see if one actually could change one’s sex marker under the new rules.
In testing the policy we found that one couldn’t change one’s sex marker as easily as the new healthcare policy was supposed to make it. So October 2011, I filed an appeal with the VA challenging the denial of my request for a sex marker change.
That appeal was the tool NCTE and the VA used to clarify the policy. So March, the VA identified what kind of documents would be acceptable for changing one’s sex marker. I had applied fall 2011 with the kind of documents the VA identified as acceptable in their March policy clarification. Yet, the new policy didn’t impact my ability to change my sex marker: my appeal was still pending.
As of Oct.15 – almost a year to the day after filing my appeal – I was sent a letter from the VA. My appeal was resolved in my favor. Per the letter, sometime within the next thirty calendar days the VA will change my sex marker from male to female.
Pardon me as I just let out a huge WOO-HOO! I’m entering the territory of emotional relief at being able to obtain for myself what I previously helped to obtain for my disabled veteran trans peers.
The relief comes at knowing my misgendering at the VA will soon end; it’s an entrance to a new reality.
For example, at a recent medical appointment at the VA Endocrinology Clinic, I was called “sir” by the nurse calling me in as a patient. She looked at the gender marker on my medical record and just called me “sir,” and that wasn’t aligned with the VA‘s policy on transgender healthcare regarding pronoun usage.
I expressed anger toward the nurse in a restrained voice, but I was angry at being misgendered, and she knew it. When I saw my doctor at the clinic I talked about being called “sir.” I told my doctor that Endocrinology Clinic staff just using the gender marker found in the electronic healthcare record is just not good enough for how one addresses a patient. Basically, the clinic’s staff needs to be more careful in the use of honorifics and pronouns, and I reminded both the nurse and the doctor of that.
It was the second time in two days that I’d been misgendered by the VA because of the sex marker in my VA medical record. I’d received a computer-generated letter from the VA‘s Radiology Clinic addressed to “Mr. Autumn Sandeen” just the day before that Endocrinology Clinic appointment. I was sent that letter because I have an upcoming colonoscopy.
Some days, I want to be treated as a patient instead of being a transgender issue educator. On that day at the Endocrinology Clinic I found myself being an educator, but that day I was a very unhappy one. Having my sex marker changed within the VA‘s electronic records between now and mid-November will go a long way toward being treated with dignity as a disabled veteran patient.
I’m glad I worked with NCTE to improve the situation for my peer disabled trans veterans. I’m just as glad that I can finally take advantage, personally, of the policy changes that my peers have been able to take advantage of since last March.
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