Veterans Now Able to Enter/Edit Gender ID, Preferred Name

The following information was released today:

The Department of Veterans Affairs includes gender identity and preferred name in its national medical record system to help VA providers better understand and meet the health care needs of Veterans. As of June 25th, 2022, VA patients can view, enter and edit their gender identity and preferred name at VA.gov Home | Veterans Affairs. This new feature of VA.gov gives Veterans the ability to enter information about themselves into their health record without going through a VA staff person.  With this new solution, VA is giving Veterans more control and choice when it comes to their healthcare information.

Continue reading “Veterans Now Able to Enter/Edit Gender ID, Preferred Name”

#LGBTEldersDay: Our LGBTQ+ Veterans & Aging

According to a 2020 Gallup survey, there are an estimated 18 million adults who identify as LGBTQ+, a 1% increase to 5.6% from 4.5% in the last post in 2017. Of those surveyed, 2.0% of Baby boomers (born 1946-1964) and 1.3% of Traditionalists (born before 1946) identify as LGBTQ+. It’s estimated that by 2050, the number of people over the age of 65 will reach 83.7 million, nearly double from 43.1 million in 2012. With those numbers in mind, it is and will continue to be vital that there are services and resources are available for our aging population.

In 2015, Nate Sweeney, head of the LGBT Health Resource Center of Chase Brexton Health Care, founded Honor Our LGBT Elders Day to recognize the contributions and leadership of the older members of the LGBTQ+ community. In 2016, the center officially added May 16th to the National Day registry as National Honor Our LGBT Elders Day.

This year, the day falls on a Monday. Its mission to draw awareness to and appreciation of the lifetime of contributions made by LGBTQ+ older adults. The gains made in recent years toward LGBTQ+ equality sit squarely on the backs of those who struggles and victories, extraordinary courage and everyday authenticity pioneered the path toward freedom. National Honor Our LGBT Elders Day works to unite the LGBTQ+ community and its allies to celebrate and thank those individuals who fought on behalf of us all.

So, how can you participate in National Honor Our LGBT Elders Day today? Here are some ideas:

  • Find and like on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LGBTEldersDay/.
  • Post your photos and tag #LGBTElderSelfie on Instagram
  • Share your videos on Facebook! Tag #LGBTEldersday
  • Email your stories and content to share anytime: lgbt@chasebrexton.org.
  • Download resource guides at www.lgbtelderday.org for tips on how to honor your community’s LGBT elders.
  • Engage with social media messages:
    • Celebrating LGBT elders, who through everyday authenticity or activism, have helped improve the lives of all LGBT people. #LGBTEldersDay
    • Are you part of #LGBTEldersDay? It’s a global day of recognition for LGBT Adults everywhere.
    • Save the date! #LGBTEldersDay is coming up. How will you give? • Bring Awareness, reach out, connect with LGBT Elders everywhere for #LGBTEldersDay
    • You can get involved! 5/16 is #LGBTEldersDay, it’s time to honor the #LGBTElders in your life • Join us in celebrating the contributions of our LGBT elders, who whether quietly or in the spotlight, have made a positive impact on the broader acceptance and rights our community enjoys today. #LGBTEldersDay
    • LGBTEldersDay celebrates the importance of honoring LGBT older adults and their contributions to our organizations and communities around the world.
    • National#LGBTEldersDay unifies LGBT communities, and helps the world gain knowledge of best practices for overcoming institutional obstacles as well as individual barriers to implementing LGBT programming into an organization.
    • Give time, money, and your voice to make a difference this 5/16 #LGBTEldersDay [add organization and donation link here]
    • Give time, money, and your voice – give what you can to support National LGBT Older Adults on #LGBTEldersDay
    • Join the movement; share your story and be part of #LGBTEldersDay
    • Tell your story – Make a difference this 5/16 #LGBTEldersday
  • Check out these sample tweets to get your followers engaged:
    • May 16—Join the movement; be part of #LGBTEldersDay. Visit http://Elder.lgbt for more info.
    • Show respect to our LGBT Elders. #LGBTEldersDay is a day of empowerment to raise awareness for LGBT seniors—http://elders.lgbt #ElderPride
    • Mark your calendars! 5/16 is coming soon. How will you support your #LGBTElders? Visit http://lgbtelderday.org to learn more. #LGBTEldersDay
  • Use hashtags to spread the word: NationalHonorOurLGBTEldersDay #NationalLGBTEldersDay #LGBTEldersDay #LGBTElders #LGBTElderSelfies #SeniorPride #ElderPride #ElderAdvocacy

Okay, now to the serious stuff.

LGBTQ+ Veterans & Aging

It cannot be overstated that there are knowledge gaps when it comes to LGBTQ+ Veterans especially aging LGBTQ+ Veterans. Initiatives that seek to provide for LGBTQ+ Veterans and Servicemembers often ultimately leave Veterans out in favor of providing for those currently serving. It may be due to the fact that serving the serving is perhaps more accessible than gauging the complex needs of LGBTQ+ Veterans and working to address them.

Veterans, as a whole, are a complex group comprised of men and women from different eras with varying services and experiences in addition to exposures to war and serving in strict environments for years. Members of the LGBTQ+ community are more complex still as entire life experiences influence the individual with exposures to discrimination, violence, bullying, and other issues. When you overlay one group onto the other, you will find individuals with complex needs derived from both military and civilian life experience.

More specifically, LGBTQ+ Veterans are more likely to report higher rates of sexual harassment and assault, and are more vulnerable to homelessness and unemployment when compared to LGBTQ+ civilians.

Read More

Resources

Further Reading

Chaney, M.P. & Whitman, J.S. (2020). “Affirmative Wellness Counseling With Older LGBTQ+ Adults.” Journal of Mental Health Counseling 42(4): 303-322.

Cortes, J., Fletcher, T.L., Latini, D.M., and Kauth, M.R. (2019). “Mental Health Differences Between Older and Younger Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Veterans: Evidence of Resilience.” Clinical Gerontologist 42(2): 162-171.

Hinrichs, K.L.M. & Christie, K.M. (2019). “Focus on the family: A case example of end-of-life care for an older LGBT veteran.” Clinical Gerontologist 42(2): 204-211.

Jurček, A., Downes, C., Keogh, B., Urek, M., Gheaf, G., Hafford-Letchfield, T., Buitenkamp, C., van der Vaart, N., & Higgins, A. (2020). “Educating health and social care practitioners on the experiences and needs of older LGBT+ adults: Finding from systematic review.” Journal of Nursing Management 29: 43-57.

Mankowski, Mariann. 2017. “Aging LGBT Military Service Members and Veterans.” Annual Review of Gerontology & Geriatrics 37 (1): 111–25.

Mark, K.M., McNamara, K.A., Gribble, R., Rhead, R. Sharp, M., Stevelink, S.A.M., Schawartz, A., Castro, C., & Fear, N.T. (2019). “The health and well-being of LGBTQ serving and ex-serving personnel: a narrative review.” International Review of Psychiatry 31(1): 75-94.

Did you know that over half (60%) of Americans are concerned about the stigma around mental illness?

What is stigma?

Stigma is when someone, or even you yourself, views a person in a negative way just because they have a mental health condition. Some people describe stigma as a feeling of shame or judgement from someone else. Stigma can even come from an internal place, confusing feeling bad with being bad.

One in 5 Americans is affected by mental health conditions. Stigma is toxic to their mental health because it creates an environment of shame, fear and silence that prevents many people from seeking help and treatment.

What can you do?

Firstly, it helps to learn more about stigma and how it affects you. You can do so by taking the National Alliance on Mental Illness’ (NAMI) StigmaFree Quiz, then looking at the answers to learn about the effects of stigma and what you can do to help.

Second, if you’ve ever been affected by stigma because of a mental health condition, know that you’re not alone. As stated above, one in five Americans are affected with mental health conditions and six out of ten are also concerned about letting anyone know they are affected. Remember, having mental health issues is not wrong and it does not make you a bad person. Stigma is harmful because it can stop us from seeking the help we need but there is hope if you take the time to understand it so you can educate those around you about it. Just don’t let the learning and educating get in the way of getting help for yourself. Below is an infographic about how to address stigma:

What about being LGBTQ+?

LGBTQ+ individuals are almost three times more likely to experience a mental health condition like depression or anxiety. The rate is higher among the LGBTQ+ community because of discrimination and prejudice based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Additionally, the diversity of the LGBTQ+ community adds more stressors like racism and prejudice based on ethnicity and culture. Unfortunately, these divisions can come from those closest to us like family members, colleagues, faith leaders, community members, healthcare providers, and other institutions. With all these issues coming from different sides, it is absolutely crucial that stigma surrounding mental illness be removed.

“You have a right to be seen, be heard and be healthy in body, mind and spirit. Your voice can help end the dual discrimination and stigmatization that members of LGBTQ communities often face.”

Stop Stigma Sacramento

Here are some things you can do thanks to Stop Stigma Sacramento:

  • Embrace friends and family members who may be living with a mental health condition. Mental illness doesn’t discriminate, but sometimes people do. Your peers or friends may encounter different forms of prejudice and discrimination than you do, and it is important to let them know you can be trusted. Sometimes all it takes is a hug, a call or a positive text.
  • Learn the ways stigma can hurt individuals and families, the resources for help and the ways that different prejudices or backgrounds can further contribute to community- and internalized self-stigma. Understand what individuals and families living with mental health conditions are going through and how support can be provided.
  • Reach out if someone you know is becoming more withdrawn, anxious or isolated. Encourage them to seek help, offer to accompany them to a counseling appointment or just invite them out for coffee. Stay in touch and find ways to provide encouragement, support, hope and help, knowing that they may be facing sources of stigma and prejudice that differ from your own.
  • Look for opportunities to get involved. Use your voice, in person and online, to share your mental health journey and raise awareness about the effects of stigma. It’s not always easy to take a stand, but your courage can help remind and educate others that mental health challenges are real and common, and that LGBTQ communities continue to face persistent barriers to treatment.

Last but certainly not least, if you’re an LGBTQ+ Veteran who is experiencing mental health issues, know that you’re not alone either. In fact, the VA has made strides in reaching out to LGBTQ+ Veterans, letting them know that they are there to serve ALL Veterans. Below are some videos about opening up and here is a resource from Make the Connection about Coming Out to Your Provider.

Sources & Additional Reading (These will also be shared on the SITREP socials throughout the month.)

According to a 2020 report, LGBTQ+ Veterans are at greater risk of suicide than the general population. In fact, suicide accounted for 3.8% of deaths among LGBTQ+ Veterans in 2017 and was ranked fifth in the top causes of death among LGBTQ+ Veterans also in 2017.

If you or a fellow Veteran find yourself in crisis and need someone to talk to, the Veterans Crisis Line is available 24/7. You can call (1-800-273-8255, press 1), text (838255), or chat (www.veteranscrisisline.net).

You are not alone, there is help.

For more information on preventing suicide in the LGBTQ+ Veteran population, click here.

VA: Health Records Now Display Gender Identity

The Department of Veterans Affairs began including gender identifiers in its national medical record system in December 2021 to help VA providers better understand and meet the health care needs of Veterans.

Providing this option demonstrates the agency’s commitment to delivering care fitting the individual needs of Veterans enrolled in VA health care, including transgender and gender-diverse Veterans.

VA added transgender male, transgender female, non-binary, other or does not wish to disclose options to its new gender identity field.

“Our goal is to align the department’s policies and procedures with the president’s vision for a more inclusive government,” said VA Secretary Denis McDonough. “All Veterans, all people, have a basic right to be identified as they define themselves. This is essential for their general well-being and overall health. Knowing the gender identity of transgender and gender diverse Veterans helps us better serve them.” 

A person’s gender identity conveys essential information about who they are and may signal experiences of stigma and discrimination that can affect their health. VA health records now display both gender identity and preferred name, so VA staff can address the Veteran appropriately.   

Further information can be found in VHA Directive 1341 or at LGBTQ+ Health Program.

LGBTQ+ History Month: Mary Edwards Walker, Surgeon, Union Army

Surgeon
b. November 26, 1832
d. February 21, 1919

You men are not our protectors… If you were, who would there be to protect us from? 

A steadfast feminist, Mary Edwards Walker defied nineteenth century patriarchal society by refusing to live within the confines of gender-based roles. As a student, physician, and activist, Walker defined her place in society while paving the way for future generations of women.

Diverging from the norm, Walker’s liberal parents encouraged her and her five sisters to attend college and pursue careers. Her father, a self-taught doctor and advocate of women’s dress reform, largely influenced Walker.

In 1855, Mary Edwards Walker graduated from Syracuse Medical College, becoming one of only a few female physicians in the country. She married fellow student and physician Albert Miller in an unconventional ceremony. Walker wore trousers and a man’s coat and chose to keep her last name. The marriage ended four years later.

At the onset of the Civil War, having been denied a position as an Army medical officer, Walker volunteered as a nurse for the Union Army. During the next few years she served in several battles including the First Battle of Bull Run and the Battle of Fredericksburg. Despite her service, Walker often found herself at the scrutiny of male superiors who questioned her credentials.

The Confederate Army captured Walker in 1864 and held her captive for four months.  Shortly following her release, Walker became the first woman commissioned as Army Surgeon, earning a monthly salary of one hundred dollars.

The following year, Walker became the first and only woman in history to receive a Medal of Honor, the highest military honor in the United States. The bill, which President Andrew Johnson signed upon the recommendation of two major generals, reads:

Whereas it appears from official reports that Dr. Mary E. Walker, a graduate of medicine, has rendered valuable service to the Government, and has devoted herself with much patriotic zeal to the sick and wounded soldiers, both in the field and hospitals, to the detriment of her own health, and has also endured hardships as a prisoner of war four months in Southern prison while acting as contract surgeon…It is ordered, That a testimonial thereof shall be hereby made and given to the said Dr. Mary E. Walker, and that the actual medal of honor for meritorious services be given her.

After the war, Walker continued to live a nonconformist lifestyle. A strong advocate of dress reform, she wore men’s clothing exclusively and was arrested on several occasions for impersonating a man. In 1917, Congress revoked her Medal of Honor after revising the criteria for receiving the medal. Walker refused to return the medal, wearing it until her death.

Bibliography

Mary Edwards Walker Papers, Syracuse University

LGBTQ+ History Month: Robert W. Wood, 36th Infantry Division, U.S. Army

“Is it proper for two of the same sex to enter the institution of marriage? To which I must reply, ‘Yes.’ ”

Soldier/Gay Pioneer

b. May 21, 1923
d. August 19, 2018

Reverend Robert Watson Wood was the first member of the clergy to picket for gay rights. He wrote the first book in the United States on Christianity and homosexuality and was the first to call for church-sanctioned gay marriage.

Wood began his undergraduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in September 1941, three months before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Soon after, he left and enlisted in the Army to fight in World War II in North Africa and Italy with the 36th Infantry Division. He was severely wounded in battle during the invasion of Italy. He received an honorable discharge, a Combat Infantry Badge, a Purple Heart, two battle stars and a Bronze Star for heroic achievement in combat. A chapter of the book “We Went to War: New Hampshire Remembers” recounts his story.

With the help of the G.I. Bill, Wood graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and then the Oberlin Graduate School of Theology. In 1951 he was ordained at the Congregational Church in Fair Haven, Vermont. He spent 35 years as a parish pastor.

In 1956 Wood wrote “Spiritual Exercises,” an article for a gay physique magazine that featured a photo of him in his clerical collar. It was his way of coming out. After meeting Edward Sagarin, who wrote the groundbreaking book “The Homosexual in America” (using the pen name Donald Webster Cory), Wood was inspired to write “Christ and the Homosexual” (1960) under his own name. In the book, Wood called for the Christian Church not only to welcome homosexuals, but also to recognize same-sex marriage, which he had performed long before it was legal. In 1960 The Mattachine Society and The Prosperos honored Wood with Awards of Merit.

From 1965 to 1969, Wood bravely protested in his clerical collar at the Annual Reminders, the first public demonstrations specifically demanding gay and lesbian equality. Held each Fourth of July in front of Independence Hall, the Annual Reminders launched the LGBT civil rights movement and paved the way for the Stonewall riot. At the first Annual Reminder, 40 gay and lesbian activists from New York, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia participated. By 1965 their numbers had more than tripled.

In 1962 Wood met Hugh M. Coulter—an artist, a cowboy, and a fellow World War II veteran—in a gay leather bar in Manhattan. A month before the first Annual Reminder, the couple marched in the nation’s first gay picket line in Washington, D.C., with 18 other gay men and seven lesbians.

Wood and Coulter spent 27 years together and wore matching gold wedding rings. Coulter died in 1989.

Wood appeared in “Gay Pioneers”, a documentary about the Annual Reminders co-produced by WHYY/PBS and Equality Forum. In 2001, the Christian Association at the University of Pennsylvania honored him as a gay pioneer and, in 2004, the United Church of Christ Coalition of LGBT Concern presented him with its pioneer award.

Wood’s long career as a pastor also allowed him to officiate many same-sex weddings as he continuously advocated in both the Christian world and society for the rights and spiritual integrity of LGBTQ+ people.

After he retired, Wood moved to New Hampshire where he spent the remainder of his years. In 2018, at the age of 95, Reverend Wood passed way at his home. The New York Times published his obituary.

Bibliography

Websites

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