The Transgender American Veterans Association released their survey of the Veteran Administration treatment of transgender veterans and the survey shows that the VA has a long way to go end discrimination.
The study found:
- About a third of those using the VA hospital had broached the subject of medical gender transitions with the VA staff. Most of them had their requests denied.
- 10% of the sample reported being turned away from the VA due to being transgender.
- Respondents reported organizational discrimination at the VA in a lack of clear and consistent practice, and little support for gender transitions. In addition, there were many reports of interpersonal discrimination, via lack of respect from VA doctors, non-medical staff, and nurses.
- Few respondents reported being turned down for procedures that are considered medically necessary for their birth gender: pap smears for female-bodied people and prostate exams for male-bodied.
In addition, there were many reports of interpersonal discrimination, via lack of respect from VA doctors (22%), non-medical staff (21%), and nurses (13%). These cases of interpersonal discrimination ranged from what many veterans describe as “typical” – refusing to change to gender-appropriate pronouns, failure to use a new name consistently – to the extreme – refusing to look at transgender patients, referring to them in dismissive ways, refusing to treat them for general medical care. One FTM respondent noted, “I was told by a religious clerk that I should just go away because I was an insult to the brave real men who were there for treatment.” Another MTF respondent noted, “I am asked about my genitals and my plans for SRS regardless of whether or not it has relevance to my treatment.” Other transgender veterans reported having their medical privacy violated by VA doctors and nurses. In many of these cases, doctors and nurses violated the Hippocratic Oath – do no harm – by singling out and stigmatizing their transgender patients. Illustrating this, one MTF respondent recounted the following experience: “A nurse pulled my partner out in the hall of the VA Hospital where I was an in-patient [and said], ‘You know that is really a man, don’t you?’” While these are just a few examples, they clearly show the discriminatory experiences transgender veterans are facing in VA hospitals – discrimination based on their non-traditional gender identities. This discrimination is not unique to transgender veterans – many transgender people face similar issues of access to care and stigmatization by medical staff in their daily lives.
This survey shows that the VA has a very long way to go to end the discrimination and the sexual harassment in their hospitals. Those10% who were turned away for routine medical treatment is totally unacceptable.