Guest Blogger Angela Brightfeather is the president of the Transgender American Veterans Association
In light of observations that have been interpreted by some as the Transgender American Veterans Association (TAVA) being no longer active, I would to take a moment to inform the GLBTQ Community of our present status, as well as to comment about the latest firing of Allyson Robertson as the Director of OS/SLDN.
TAVA has not folded our tent, nor do we anticipate doing so. Reorganization is under way, and has been in the planning for some time. Within the next month, TAVA will be in the position to announce some new goals for transgender veterans to work towards.
After helping to achieve our primary mission of insuring respectable and equal treatment for trans vets within the Veterans Administration (VA) system, we are moving on to make the White House Directive permanent, and to reset its mission statement to include obtaining gender corrective surgery for veterans, organizing and making known the best services at present within the VA system, and educating others about the historical and factual ability of transgender people to serve in the U.S. military. Just as is the case with many of our allies, and as evidenced by thousands of transgender veterans who have already served their country with honor and distinction, TAVA will persist and grow.
It has always made sense to TAVA and its members, that you do not put people into harms way without first making sure they will be treated with respect, dignity, and equality upon their return, in accordance with their contribution, sacrifice and dedication to our country.
As decorated Veterans, TAVA members know exactly what it means to be soldiers and transgender, as well as the dangers of being both in our society. TAVA is an up-front organization that does not distinguish between its members based upon their former military rank, and considers every honorably discharged private equal to any graduate of a military academy. We will always remain so. TAVA was never established to create an organization that would need a paycheck to succeed.
Although I do not know all of the details of who, why and what happened at OS/SLDN, I will stake my reputation on the fact that Allyson Robertson was dedicated to her position with them, and that she was looking forward to achieving the next necessary goal of seeing transgender people serving openly in the military next to their GLB brothers and sisters. I look forward to working with her in the future, because I know she is not one to be sidelined by the politics that exist in OS/SLDN or inside the DC Beltway.
I reflect back to four years ago when Don't Ask, Don't Tell was the central issue for SLDN and Senator Joe Lieberman drafted the legislation that would bring it to an end. Jump-starts that really pushed the issue were provided by Lt. Dan Choi and company, who brought the face of unfairness to the White House gates, and moved things forward, bringing the issue to every American. The "poison pill" amendment in that legislation to not provide equal support for military partners, was left in so that the mission of SLDN could continue after the repeal of DADT.
When TAVA heard about the drafting of the legislation taking place, we approached SLDN and asked if it included trans people presently serving. We were told it did not and were enraged, seeing and feeling every bit like we were reliving the debacle of ENDA all over again. We were told the same old story. The feeling was that we couldn't change any part of the legislation, because it would be defeated and sponsors would drop their support. We received calls from major movers and shakers inside the Beltway asking TAVA to back off and to not push the issue at that time.
With that in mind, TAVA concentrated our efforts on obtaining the White House Directive that would insure transgender veterans equal treatment from the VA. We trusted that SLDN would redirect their efforts after their success and make transgender people the next logical push to achieve equality, having been given absolute guarantees that they would do this.
TAVA was very happy when Allyson Robinson was installed as the new SLDN director and viewed it as the organization attempting to live up to their promise. Now, it may appear that she was used only to provide the necessary cover until such a time that they were ready to continue with their original intent of making partner benefits their major mission. Particularly with it all happening just before the Supreme Court is ready to rule on DOMA and reshuffle the political cards.
The Board of Directors of TAVA will meet within the next month to decide on our new mission(s). We will build upon the past successes of "in your face activism", tempered with a commitment not to fail in our mission and dedicated volunteers. Unlike SLDN and others, we are comprised of the people who are not involved for payment or seek a positions that will help invite us to brunches at the White House.
We seek the help of all transgender veterans and ask for their support in achieving our goals for all transgender people who have served and are willing to serve in the future.
We will have more to say about what has happened when all of the facts emerge. But it is foolish to expect any kind of support for transgender issues in the military from people who are willing to make us victims, have agendas that do not include us, or outright plan on ways of excluding us.
President, Transgender American Veteran's Association