Saturday, September 1, 2018

I Fought For You. Will You Fight For Me?

I fought for you.  Will you fight for me?
We fought for you.  Will you fight for us?

The Trump administration is trying to attack health care for trans veterans.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is currently asking for comments from the general public about whether to provide health care to trans veterans.

Send in a comment by September 7, 2018 telling the Trump administration that all veterans deserve the care their doctors recommend!

I am Michelle Paquette, a transgender veteran of the US Navy.  I suffered from gender dysphoria for decades, along with the socially induced depression and anxiety related to fear of discovery and condemnation.  I received the medically necessary care my doctors prescribed, and am doing much better, a happier, active member of my community and society at large.

I have seen what denying medically necessary care can do.  I have seen the anxiety and depression reaching the point where folks gave in to substance abuse, becoming alcoholics and drug abusers.  I have seen the suicides and attempts from those unable to receive proper medical care.

All eligible veterans deserve medically necessary care, and it is wrong to single out any group of veterans to deny medical care. Excluding medical treatments for gender dysphoria hurts veterans who have proudly served their country, harming their health and in some cases putting their lives at risk.

Transgender people have served with honor, for decades.  We proudly and patriotically volunteered to serve in our nations armed forces, and we feel this assault doubly on our identity, on who we are.  Our brothers, our sisters, our family and allies have been targeted.  We know the price of freedom, and this test of our freedom and resolve cannot be allowed to pass.

I was a transgender person in the US Navy, not out, but a dedicated and patriotic person there to serve my country and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign AND domestic.

Being transgender but not out made life considerably harder.

Sharon Brown, a Navy veteran now working as director of human resources at the Los Angeles LGBT Center described this.  “You’re less productive, you’re always on guard,” she explained. “It takes a lot of energy to hide who you are when that energy could be used for other things. When you can be open, you’re much happier, you’re much more engaged. The sun truly comes up when you’re allowed to be who you are and it’s shining all day long because you can actually serve as your authentic self and be proud of who you are.”

I worked very hard, as many trans military members do, and like many other trans folks, was an overachiever.  I was in the Navy Nuclear Power Program, and I impressed the staff sufficiently that I was asked to stay on for two years as an instructor after I completed the Nuclear Power Schools.  Following that tour, I was assigned to a submarine, one of the most decorated boats in the fleet, and crewed by more overachievers.  And yes, as I found out years later, that included several other trans folks.  I racked up more awards.

I received the Navy Achievement Medal, several presidential citations and command citations.  I completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics.  My crew was awarded the Nave Expeditionary Medal for our mission performance, along with the Battle ‘E’ and Engineering ‘E.  Besides my primary Engineering duties, I took on duties in the fire control racking party, damage control party, and was assistant ship’s photographer, recording mission data and assembling media for reports to COMSUBPAC.  I was the Engineering Dept 3M Coordinator, overseeing all maintenance and care for the nuclear power plant, engines and support systems.

Trans folks tend to be driven overachievers.  (Just ask anyone who knows me…)  We work hard to try and be accepted, far harder than those born with their assigned sex and gender identity in line, because we really do have something we need to prove.

We trans folks are among the best and brightest in the service.  We fought for you.  We served at great risk to ourselves.  We were promised by our government that after our service, we would receive care and consideration for our service as veterans.

Medical decisions should be made by medical professionals based on current standards of care. Nobody should put themselves between veterans and the care their VA health care providers have recommended.