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Transprogressive: My appeal to the VA resolved; my sex marker will change soon



Autumn Sandeen at the VA Medical Center

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.



Short URL: http://lgbtweekly.com/?p=30459

Posted by on Oct 25, 2012. Filed under Bottom Highlights, Online Only, Trans Progressive. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

9 Comments for “Transprogressive: My appeal to the VA resolved; my sex marker will change soon”

  1. Interesting… I had the experience once of a lab tech noticing my sex marker on my records, right after my name change, and right before my doctor’s nurse went and demanded that they change mine. (Interestingly enough, this was in Alabama, at a clinic affiliated with a teaching hospital.) She looked me up and down and said, “Ma’am, they have made a bad mistake in your records…they have you listed as a male.” I looked at her, and just said, in a rather shocked voice, “What?!?!?” She showed me the record, and I said, “Well, I guess someone hit the wrong key by accident…I will have someone check it out,” which I did. The nurse went, was told it could not be changed, and asked why not. The next time I went to the doctor, everything was fine. Of course, my doctor, and the nurse, knew that I planned to fully change my sex, so they had no qualms about assisting me. At the same time, I found that Alabama would not change the sex marker on a driver’s license before surgery. Now, during the time I had an ‘M’ on my Alabama license, I was involved in a couple of accidents, and got a couple of tickets, once for speeding (I was late to work), and once for having an expired tag. On all those occasions, not a word was said, and the tickets and the accident reports always said ‘F’ on them. In fact, I only had one person notice my license. I was writing a check at a department store and the sales clerk happened to notice. Again, she took it as a mistake, and suggested is sue the State of Alabama. I again acted shocked, and said I would go take care of it the next day… We both had a good laugh, at some clerks stupid mistake….

    Of course, for me, this was why I transitioned. To be an ordinary woman. Just a few days ago, while waiting for a bus, a woman started telling me about her hot flashes. She just assumed that, being a woman of a certain age, I shared her experiences of menopause. I told her about an experience right after my surgery, not mentioning the specific nature of my surgery. I noticed that I seemed very warm, and assumed I was having my first “hot flash.” I had been off hormones prior to surgery, and of course, my body would certainly not be producing any testosterone. I had read that some do have hot flashes after surgery before they start back on estrogen. Then the nurse came in, noticed that the room was very hot, and turned down the heat…which was sat excessively high. We shared a laugh that only two women could share.

    But, then again, as I have said before, I am not transgender, or trans, or anything other than a woman, period. And, quite frankly, there is a lot more to being a woman, and to being a female, than just claiming to be one. And that is truly reality, which some may discover is still a bit beyond their grasp.

  2. Although I served as male I struggled with my life until I switch to living female. I recently found my original birth records and they clearly show I was born female. when I showed the records to the VA my Gender Marker was changed on their and my military records within days. that was in November of 2010. Since then I have been called by the Nurses in the waiting room as “Sir” Several times. Each time i stand to follow the Nurse She looks at her papers and instantly corrects herself or himself and says they get so many male veterans they automatically think the patient is male. I have to admit that I haven’t been called “Sir” in some time now though. I know how it can be frustrating being mishandled.

    I must add that on getting my Gender Marker Changed I was asked for the usual information. I needed written statements from a doctor about having GRS “Gender Reassignment Surgery”. I didn’t have those letters because I hadn’t gone through any GRS. I have found out I was born Intersex with both male and female parts and because i was closer to female at birth the Doctors assigned me a female Gender marker. with those records in hand when I went to the Va my records were then changed to Female forever more even with some male parts.

  3. You are to be commended and thanked Autumn for your work with the VA.
    I too am a trans vet and started my HRT journey with them about a year ago. I did run into a couple roadblocks in the system (which knew little about me) but I was treated with respect and they finally were resolved.
    Changing my gender markers with the VA is not too far down the road for me and your work and info has really helped!!!!
    Thanks Again!!!

  4. You’re so welcome Crysti. It’s a real joy to serve community; a joy to serve community members like you.

  5. Felicitas Goldenstein

    There is nowhere near 100,000 U.S. paid contractors in Iraq. You are off by a factor of 8-10. Nor are there 40,000 NATO troops in Iraq.

  6. A thought… When I had my sex marker, and yes, it IS a sex marker, not a gender marker, changed on my documentation prior to surgery, it was a means to an end. It made life a little easier for me as I moved towards the goal of correcting my body. And that is why it was allowed, to help facilitate my Real LIfe Test. Now, it seems, this has become the goal itself, as though changing documentation, simply for the sake of changing it, has any real meaning. In my case, it afforded me a bit of privacy in consideration of what I was doing. Now, well…

  7. I got mine changed In Jan 2012

  8. Sometimes, Miss Autumn, we make the mistake with using the masculine pronoun “he” just because of all the male Veterans we encounter on a given day. Really. Do you know how deeply hurt l was by a transgender, disabled Veteran who I had referred to as “Miss” and “she” a hundred times, but once when I was rattled said “he”, when they screamed and berated me? She yelled at me and spoke to me as if I was dirt. We make mistakes, it doesn’t mean we’re Neanderthals.

    • But, cisgenders are dirt. You deserved to be berated. Maybe next time you won’t make such a horrendous mistake.

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