Sunday, January 13, 2013

TAVA Turns 10

This year also marks the 10th birthday of the Transgender American Veterans Association  which was founded in January 2003 by Monica Helms and Angela Brightfeather out of growing concerns for the fair and equal treatment of transgender veterans and active duty service members.

When the June 2010 VA directive came out, TAVA was in the position of seeing their major policy objective achieved.  Even more gratifying to the board members, the feedback they received from their constituents is that it worked.  

Now they are at a critical crossroads as to whether to build on that success or fold the organization.  

As TAVA founding president Monica Helms stated on her Facebook page:

Yesterday was TAVA's 10 year anniversary. Sadly, it may be our last. We did accomplish our primary mission when in June 2010, the VA initiated a directive that shows how to treat trans veterans properly. Two days after that came out, we received E-mails and calls from transgender veterans who said it worked. You don't know how wonderful that felt.

But, all the board members (the ones who are left) are all over 60 and we are tired. Other organizations, such as OutServe and NCTE are taking up the slack. TAVA's board is in the process of deciding how we need to "fade out," and there is some contention on how it should be done. All we ask of our friends is to understand and support our decision, whichever direction it goes. We appreciate all your support over the years. YOU are the ones who helped us fulfill our primary mission. We love you for that.

And thank you Monica and TAVA for your past and continuing service to this nation and the trans community.   But I would submit to you that TAVA's mission isn't done in terms of advocacy for fair and equal treatment of transgender veterans and active duty service members, especially since patriotic transpeople cannot join our military.

Don't Ask Don't Tell still exists for us.

Yes SLDN-OutServe has now added the issues of trans vets to their mission.  They have a transwoman in Allyson Robinson running it that I have much respect for.   But compared to TAVA, the merged SLDN-OutServe are newbies at advocating for trans veterans, understanding our issues and it's still marriage-centric in terms of its advocacy.  We are still dealing with the fallout of DADT not ending for us so GLB peeps could openly serve.  

I haven't forgotten how that organization refused to consider lifting transpeople as they climbed and made excuses for not advocating for transpeople to also be able to openly serve when Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal was being worked on during the Democratically controlled lame duck Congress in 2010 and eventually became a reality for the GLB community in September 2011.

So yes, I'm wary of SLDN-Outserve based on how military transfolks got thrown under the Humvee in the runup to DADT repeal.

I know you TAVA board members are tired after fighting this battle for so long and you want to move on to your well deserved rest and retire.  If you need to recruit younger peeps and train them to handle those issues, fine. 

But I submit TAVA needs to survive.  An organization of, by and for trans veterans is needed, especially when we have returning vets that will be coming home from service in Iraq and Afghanistan.  They will need an org that understands their needs, has the expertise to deal with trans veterans and the unique issues that crop up for them.
But thank you all for what you've done to help advance trans human rights in this arena for the last 10 years..

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