Palm Center Analysis Finds Trans-Discrimination by the Military and VA

USA, 21 August 2008
The Palm Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara has released the findings of a survey, conducted by Transgender American Veterans Association (TAVA), that shows that transgender veterans are being turned away and being mistreated in high numbers by Veterans Administration medical facilities.  The survey of 827 U.S. military veterans and active-duty personnel mark the first major empirical findings on transgender people in the military. This represents a strong sampling from what is estimated to be approximately 300,000 veterans in the US who identify as being transgender.

The Palm Center analysis of the data, released today, showed that over a third of survey respondents reported having experienced some form of discrimination in the workplace and 10% of respondents were turned away from the VA due to being transgender, while many reported other forms of discrimination including lack of respect from VA doctors (22%), non-medical staff (21%), and nurses (13%).  In addition, among those who served under the “don’t ask, don’t tell policy,” 1 in 5 were questioned by an officer about their sexual orientation, a violation of the military’s DADT policy. A third reported there were suspicions about their sexual identity; indicating that officers were confusing that with gender variance.

“I find it very disturbing that our proud veterans are being turned away by the VA because of who they are,” stated Monica Helms, President of Transgender American Veterans Association. “We served our country honorably and proudly and the VA medical benefits we earned should not be denied or diminished simply because of the direction our lives took after discharge from active service.”

Other figures found in the survey also paint a bleak picture of how transgender veterans are being treated. VA medical services offered to other veterans are routinely denied transgender veterans, such as paps smears, mammograms, prostate exams, psychotherapy and hormone treatments. Also, respondents reported they were more likely to be turned away for treatment related to transgender health issues.

“This important survey and analysis of Transgender Veterans lives,” remarked Angela Brightfeather, TAVA’s Vice President, “is yet another timely contribution to the growing and irrefutable evidence, reflecting the discrimination and marginalization experienced by all Transgender people in America today.”

Besides asking about the military history of transgender veterans, the survey’s questions covered issues outside the discrimination they faced in the military and the VA. One of the areas covered in the survey was employment discrimination. Nearly one third of the survey participants reported having experienced discrimination in the workplace, with 31% reporting that they believed they had not been hired for a job specifically because they were transgender. A full 15% reported that they had been fired from a job for being transgender (with 40% of those people having been fired more than once).  Nearly 10% reported experiencing open, blatant discrimination from an employer or prospective employer; they were explicitly told that they were being fired (or not hired) because they were transgender.

On June 24, 2008, a House Congressional Hearing took place to talk about employment discrimination in the transgender community.  The findings in the survey greatly enhances the findings of that hearing.

The entire White Paper report for the Transgender Veterans Survey can be found at the TAVA web site. Dr. Jeanne Scheper from The Palm Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara coordinated the report and it was analyzed by Dr. Bonnie Moradi, Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Florida. Dr. Gary Gates, Senior Research Fellow at the Williams Institute, University of California acted as a consultant and provided guidance for White Paper. Professors Karl Bryant, PhD, of State University of New York, New Paltz, NY and Kristen Schilt, PhD of University of Chicago wrote the White Paper report.  Please contact TAVA for more details about the survey.

Survey White Paper Report:

Transgender American Veterans Association (TAVA)

Contact: Monica Helms – President, TAVA

Alt Contact: Denny Meyer – Media Director, TAVA
Phone: (718) 849-5665

Palm Center: Nathaniel Frank, Ph.D., Senior Research Fellow
Phone: (805) 893 5664