We now serve
openly and proudly in our armed forces with full
and equal benefits. Our marriages are now
legal in eighteen states (more or less,
depending on the day of the week)! Nearly every
weekend there are news stories of yet another
couple getting married on a military base.
Its almost boring, but not yet.
Discrimination in high and low places still
needs to be battled. We're not
Supreme Court's repeal of DOMA some six months
ago, nearly every federal agency has
aggressively acted to reach out to LGBT
Americans to provide us with equal benefits.
The Department of Defense has been among those
in the forefront to change its culture and
regulations to reflect the new reality of
equality for those of us on active duty.
But, the Veterans Administration has a bit of
catching up to do.
To be sure,
the VA has had LGBT programs in a few VAMCs
around the country for years now, and the list
is growing; and there are
now national VA LGBT Program Coordinators.
Inpatient LGBT PTSD programs have begun. There's even a new 'LGBT welcoming poster' you
can see on the walls in odd places at VAs
everywhere. It says: "We serve all who
served" and has rainbow dog tags and a
stethoscope on an American Flag background.
Considering past history, its amazing.
But, some clueless VA clerks, it seems, have photocopied it in black and white to tape to
walls, so you can't really see the rainbow dog
tags, nor notice that its anything special.
It just looks like all the other dull
bureaucratic crap taped up around it, reminding
you to 'tell someone' if you have chest pain,
diarrhea, or diabetes. Considering how
excited I'd been to be consulted on the
development of that poster, it made me cringe in
sad horror to see it, at last, on the wall in a
boring waiting room, on plain paper in blurry
grey photocopied glory, amidst other pasted-up
dreary notices at one VA I visited. The
sharp clever color graphics were gone, it was
almost invisible. Some day soon, that is
the way it should be: that LGBT vets' inclusion
is as routine as that of any other old vets.
But, we're not there yet. Many LGBT vets,
especially older folks, need to see a bright big
color poster telling them that they don't have
to hide who they are to get the healthcare they earned
serving and sacrificing silently in WWII, Korea,
and Vietnam. In fact all LGBT veterans who
served in silence before and during DADT in the
Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan deserve to see
their service and sacrifice recognized, at long
last, with relevant and competent treatment and
benefits, and rainbow colored dog tags on a VA
poster welcoming them.
So, there is significant progress, but
unfortunately discrimination persists in
macro and micro permutations across the nation.
Colorado's senior Senator, Mark Udall, has been
urgently campaigning for the VA to recognize
same sex marriages, as all other federal
agencies do, because some bureaucrats there still seem
stuck on out-of-date obscure legalities which
should have been voided when the Supreme Court repealed DOMA.
He recently wrote about that for
GayMilitarySignal in a December 2013
and in mid January 2014 wrote a
letter to the Department
of Justice, along with other members
of Congress, urging enforcement to end the
At the bottom end of the scale, its sadly clear
that the VA needs to immediately implement
mandatory non-discrimination training for all
employees and volunteers, again, to
include intolerance of homophobia. During
a recent VA Shuttle Van trip, this year, two
Vietnam Era vets, one gay and one black, had to
suffer hearing the driver tell jokes that
disrespected various minorities. The most
offensive of which mentioned "hating faggots"
and ended with two gay men being "tortured and
beaten bloody by Klansmen, just as if they were
black." The point of the joke, apparently,
was that 'violence against gays and blacks is
supposed to be funny.' The crude ignorant
driver wore an official VA employee ID hanging
from his neck. A complaint was filed.
Despite clear non-discrimination policies and
procedures, most bureaucracies tend to
discourage decisive resolution of such
situations. But, in 2014, neither vet in
the van should have had to listen to that kind shit at
By most measures, the VA provides some of best medical care on Earth.
Through service to their nation, our vets, young
and old, have earned that care, often from
profound sacrifice resulting in severe
disability. Every vet has earned the right to be
treated with respect and dignity regardless of
race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation,
gender, and gender identity. I just think
that America's largest healthcare provider
should be able to get it together to ensure
equality for those who served and sacrificed for
The inertia on equality is likely more due to
bureaucracy than bigotry.
While the local issues can be
resolved with alacrity
by folks dedicated to the progress of
equality; the issue of marriage equality might
yet require further jurisprudence and or
legislation, both of which require the patience
of an arborist.
Via DEERS, the Department of Defense oversees
the TRICARE healthcare system for retired vets
(those who served 20+ years). Within weeks
of the repeal of DOMA, retired vets were able to
get ID cards and full medical care for their
same sex spouses, on the same day that they
applied, regardless of the state they live in,
regardless of the status of marriage equality of
the state they live in. Yet, some six
months later, the VA is still buried deep in
bureaucratic stagnation, denying equality.
Why? Ask your Congressman.
GayMilitarySignal.com is devoted to advocating
the rights and benefits of LGBT veterans and
service members; but, discrimination still
abounds against all of our brothers and sisters
nationwide, despite all the recent Pride and
Victory we've seen. Transgender and Gay
Americans are still being murdered daily across
the nation. Perfectly legal housing and
employment discrimination continues in a
majority of states. An entire national political
party is dedicated to denying equality. For many LGBT
Americans, the American Dream is still a
nightmare because simple basic equality is
denied just because of who we are. So,
despite the rightful dancing and celebration in
victorious Pride parades; we are not done yet
folks. This is just the beginning of the
battle for full equality. Yes, celebrate,
but then don't sit back and relax; its back to
'out of the bars and into the streets,' back to
demanding and demonstrating, and negotiating, and supporting those
who legislate for our rights.
I'm still proud as hell of my service; I'd do it
all again if I could. This is my country;
it was my honor, my duty, and my right to serve.
It still is.