What population can you guess has the following statistics:
- 90% of this population has at least one mental health diagnosis such as post-traumatic stress disorder or depression, and
- More than 50% have had a hospitalization from either a suicide attempt or suicidal tendencies
If you guessed transgendered individuals in the military, you are right.
The statistics are startling to say the least. These individuals have dedicated their lives to protecting our safety and freedom, and are called upon to risk their lives on a day to day basis. There are over 134,000 American veterans who identify as trans and over 15,000 who are currently serving as we speak. Not only are there physical health concerns for these individuals but also mental health issues that go hand in hand.
Under the Health Administration Transgender Healthcare Directive for trans individuals who serve in the military are afforded the following:
- General healthcare should be provided without discrimination
- Clearly states that all personal information in regards to sex be kept completely confidential
This directive does not allow for sex reassignment surgery and does not allow the VA to pay for it
Does offer trans individuals to have routine trans-related healthcare such as mammograms, Pap smears, hormones, and mental healthcare.
It is important to keep in mind that being a transgendered individual often comes with issues such as: gender dysphoria in which an individual is dissatisfied with her/his gender; deciding to transition fully or partially; transitioning and having worries of ascertaining a partner and how it will impact current relationships with family, friends, and professional relationships; post-transitioning also has issues with disappointments with results, satisfaction with appearance and surgeries, and with issues that were not dealt with prior to fully transitioning.
In my experience with working with and counseling transgendered individuals, I see many of them feel as if they have no support from the communities around them. Imagine fighting for a country in which you still do not have all the basic rights as other groups. You are put in harm’s way and asked to fight for a country that has not yet established standards in which you have the same rights as the majority. These types of scenarios are a perfect combination for trans individuals to develop mental health issues. Feelings of worthlessness and non-acceptance run rampant in these cases and can be very detrimental to one’s psyche and mental health. Many times when veterans come home from deployment they are not given an appropriate mental health screen in which one can see if mental health services are necessary for their re-adjustment into society.
How can we help?
Within our LGBTQ communities we need to have 100% inclusion of all populations and communities to promote a sense of not only acceptance of one another’s differences, but a sense of belonging to something that is bigger than ourselves. As a community we need to realize and accept that it is not “us” or “them,” it is “we.”
We must come together to fight prejudices, inequalities, maltreatment, injustices, and discrimination.
We must unite for our numbers our large and we must make our presence known for all to see. Once someone has a sense of community and acceptance, they can strive and be the best person they can be.
We cannot be afraid to be ourselves regardless of what others may say or think.
Self-love is a beautiful thing and can promote nothing but love in return and I have seen the miraculous effects that it has on the trans community who are veterans and active military as well.
It is getting better for the trans members of our community. In June of 2016 the Pentagon lifted a ban on people who are transgendered which allows them to serve openly and freely as one should. We have come far, but need to go further for ALL of our brothers and sisters in this illustrious and beautiful community that WE are all a part of. The fight continues, and we shall overcome and be victorious.
Information can be seen through: National Center for Transgender Equality and The Endocrine Society
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