Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Veteran’s Administration Makes History

by Brittney McCabe, Program Manager

YES Institute video conference with multiple VA sites. 

Multiple video screens connected Veteran’s Administration (VA) hospitals and clinics across Georgia, Florida, and Puerto Rico in the largest-scale dialogue on gender and orientation in the VA's history. The dialogue’s success inspired VA leaders to contact YES Institute about leading an unprecedented national training. 

“When I was in the military, nobody talked about orientation. As a man noticing my attraction to men, I struggled in silence.” - Jim, YES Institute speaker, US Veteran

At the dialogue, a Veteran and YES Institute speaker named Bree shared, “Growing up, I knew I was a girl, but I tried to bury those feelings and play along with everyone's expectation that I be masculine. Shame and hiding made me feel disconnected from my own life. In the Navy, I finally began expressing who I was in a secret journal.”

“My crew-mates were my family and only support. When they found my journal and discovered my secret, they didn't know how to react. They taunted me for weeks. In the end, I tried to kill myself.”- Bree, YES Institute speaker, US Navy Veteran

A VA staff member said, “My discomfort disappeared when I learned about the challenges transgender Veterans face.”

Bree shared with VA staff that she called the VA to access her healthcare and a phone representative repeatedly called her “Sir.” Bree said, “I was hurt and humiliated and I hung up.” It took her two years to regain the courage to claim her VA benefits. Bree said, “Pronouns and names are important. Being acknowledged with a preferred pronoun is healing."

By the time Bree contacted the VA a second time, the staff had participated in a number of YES Institute trainings. They walked Bree through the system with a commitment to ensuring her records were accurate and she had access to quality healthcare. 

“Enlightening! This empowers me to be proactive and learn more. I will share YES Institute's education with others.”— Staff member, Tampa VA

Connie Barden RN, MSN, CCRN, CCNS and Co-Founder of YES Institute.