Tag Archive: veterans

Veterans Day Countdown to Honor Flight South Jersey 2015

For Veterans Day, I want to let you know about something coming up in January that means a lot to me. For several years, my beloved Joey has been an escort guardian for a World War II vet going down to the WWII Memorial in D.C. with Honor Flight South Jersey. If you don’t know about Honor Flight, it’s magnificent. Vets from both WWII and Korea, aging now, are transported together by plane and luxury bus from all over the country to see the monuments in Washington dedicated to them. It’s all free to the vets, and they’re accompanied one-on-one by younger people. That’s what Joey does every summer. But in January, like last year, he’ll also host a comedy show fundraiser that’s one of Honor Flight’s major sources of funds to keep the trips free for all the Jersey vets. Here are the details of the show, tickets on sale soon. Last year the show paid for a bus and a half full of veterans.  

Comedy Show Benefit for Honor Flight

Saturday January 24 – 7:30pm

Williamstown High School (Gloucester County)

Honor Flight South Jersey is the only hub in the state; the vets come from North, Central & South Jersey.

South Jersey Honor Flight Website (comedy’s not listed yet)

Why Transgender Vets Can’t Get Military Benefits

Trans veterans much more likely to suffer discrimination than non trans civilians. NJ decorated war vet has a new mission.

As we know, Repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” did nothing to allow transgender people to serve in the military. But, as the spotlight of LGBT rights shines on the recent progress of lesbians and gays, it also highlights all the areas where transgender people are left behind.

In 2012, a Bilerico blog highlighted the story of a trans woman, Sergeant Major Jennifer Long , a decorated war hero who was promoted to E-9, the highest enlisted pay grade, who was awarded a Bronze Star and a “French National Defense Medal” remarkably while serving in “stealth” in the middle of her transition as a woman.

http://www.bilerico.com/2012/0…

But that was just the beginning of her story, her mission to really accomplish things to help her fellow Americans, her fellow veterans and her fellow transpeople.

Well, she got that job in New Jersey in the financial sector, made a commitment to be active in LGBT political advocacy and also in veterans affairs, working for all veterans, and was recently elected Post Commander of her VFW Post. As impressive as that may sound, she was not the first transperson elected “Commander” of a VFW post. That distinction belongs to another “Jersey Girl,” another Jennifer, and friend and warrior,  Jennifer Denklau, who retired to Northern Arizona and was elected Commander in 2010.

One of the greatest challenges to transgender people is the documentation of our being in our modern data driven gender binary society. Most all trans people need change their names, we need to change our gender on documents to match our actual gender identity, our true selves.

We’ve actually come a long way with the Federal government.  The Obama Administration has overseen changing  gender markers for Social Security, and under Secretary Hillary Clinton the State Department has made common sense rules for changing the gender markers on US Passports. Although the Veteran’s Adminsitration has made some accommodations to recognize and respect trans veterans, roadblocks still remain.

Here in New Jersey I worked with State officials in 2009 to modernize and simplify the procedure to change the gender markers on NJ Drivers Licenses. It was a success as it worked for our drivers as well as our Motor Vehicle Commission. In 2013 I recruited Jennifer for our task force to pass legislation to modernize the policy and procedures to change the gender markers on our birth certificates. While working on that she was inspired to take the lead with the ACLU on another mission, to change the gender marker on the basic military ID form the DD214.

National Public Radio has picked up her story and the real life reasons for needing to make the changes.

http://www.wnyc.org/story/tran…

I just want to emphasize that perhaps 150,000 or more vets are affected and the acknowleged FACT that transpeople serve in the US Military at a significantly higher percentage than the general population.

Jennifer summed it up well, “You faced the enemies of the United States,” … “What a shame that you have to hide that service because you’re afraid of someone’s perception of you.”

Changing Gender Markers to Match Reality … Victories and Hope in NJ

Changing Gender Markers to Match Reality … Victories and Hope in NJ

This has been a big week for trans people around the globe in our quest for respect!  We celebrate the new victories in our continuous war against institutionalized roadblocks and stonewalls … namely, to be recognized as the gender to which “We” identify.

In America, Transgender veterans will now be able to change the gender marker on their medical records by simply providing a physician’s letter confirming gender reassignment, according to a clarification of a Veterans Health Administration (VHA) policy.

Evidently, last year the VHA, which is part of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, issued a directive on providing respectful and appropriate care to transgender veterans, but the directive was not clear about the documentation needed for changing the gender marker. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality’s blog., the requirement for “official documentation … was initially interpreted incorrectly by some staff and facilities to require proof of sex reassignment surgery.”

Now, according to the NCTE blog, with the clarification, “a vet must simply provide a letter from a physician certifying that the vet has changed genders and has had appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition. To be clear, the physician’s letter does not need to certify that some specific surgery or any particular medical procedure has been completed – only appropriate clinical care for the individual veteran as determined by the physician.”

This is similar to documentation now required by the U.S. State Department for changing gender markers on passports and by some states, including New Jersey, for doing so on driver’s licenses. We understand that NCTE is preparing “a user-friendly guide” for the policy and will release it in a few weeks.

Trans people in Holland celebrated a victory on December 17th when the Dutch Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill that would allow transgender people to legally change their gender on their birth certificates and other official documents without undergoing sterilization and sex-reassignment surgery.

According to transgender rights activists, under current Dutch law, people can legally change their gender on official documents only after “obligatory and often unwanted sterilization and gender modification operations.”

The Council of Europe and the U.N. are among the international organizations that have urged the Dutch government to allow trans people to legally change their gender without sterilization and SRS.

The main chamber of the Dutch Parliament earlier this year approved the measure after COC Nederland, the Transgender Network Netherlands and other Dutch LGBT advocacy groups lobbied the country’s lawmakers for years to support it. Germany, Austria and Portugal have also passed similar trans rights laws. Last year, in 2012, the Argentinian President signed a law that allows trans Argentinians to legally change their gender on official documents without surgery and an affidavit from a doctor or another medical provider.

The Dutch law is scheduled to take effect on July 1. The law does not apply to people under 16 years of age and activists have indicated they will work to amend the law.

Meanwhile, in a bi-partisan effort, on December 19, the New Jersey State Senate passed Assembly bill A4097, 21-11. The bill would apply to people who have undergone “clinically appropriate treatment for the purpose of gender transition, based on contemporary medical standards, or that the person has an intersex condition.” and would enable them to get a new amended birth certificate.

New Jersey’s current 30-year old outdated law forces individuals to endure potentially unnecessary surgery. Contemporary medical standards recognize that how a transgender person transitions is a decision made between a patient and their health care provider, and is unique to each person. .This law takes away the power to change a birth certificate, the most basic piece of identification, from a bureaucrat to implement a vague law that only says “surgery” and puts it in the hands the individual with the consent of a licensed medical provider. The legislation does not exclude minors. The NJ Bar Association endorsed the new legislation.

It also supports what we all know to be true – that in today’s world having identity documents that accurately reflect who you are is vital in order to access basic things like housing, employment, and health care.

The legislation now goes to Governor Chris Christie, who must take action by January 14, 2014 when the current legislative session ends. He has given no indication of his plans.

Although New Jersey and National trans advocates had universally decided to be “low-key” on what was essentially a technical update on existing legislation, the Advocate magazine http://www.advocate.com/politi… independently decided that their readers should contact the NJ governor through his website. http://www.state.nj.us/cgi-bin…

So, since the “cat’s out of the bag”, Let’s just see how many readers are motivated to act. Let’s do it … ACT!