VA moves to offer gender confirmation surgery to veterans

Posted at 1:50 PM, Jun 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-23 14:15:47-04

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - "From 1990 to 2003, I tried 14 times," said Michelle McKay.

14 times to kill herself.

Williamsburg resident, Michelle McKay, says she was born a man, and not living her true identity which caused her daily intense pain.

"In 1990, I crashed, I didn't know who I was," she told News 3.

McKay served in the Navy for two years starting in 1970. She then left, went into the private sector, was married, and had kids, but never being true to herself.

She said she tried to use the Veteran Affairs clinic for hormone therapy in the early 2000s to start her transition, but she was rejected.

"I didn't know who I was anymore, I knew it who it wasn't who I was, and I was escaping at times," she said.

In 2008 McKay had gender confirmation surgery with private insurance.

"When the doctor said everything is fine, you are doing great, I was on cloud 9," she said.

Today, McKay is elated to learn, Veteran Affairs announced that for the first time it will offer surgeries for transgender veterans seeking to alter their physical attributes.

"They knew that research shows not having surgeries causes depression, and they want to work on that it and its like wow," said McKay.

De Stube, President of TAP Virginia, or Transgender Assistance Program, says this is a huge win for the transgender community to help live their authentic lives.

"Medicare and Medicaid already pay for gender affirming surgery, so for the 130,000 trans vets in the United States it gives them some peace of mind, that the VA is with them and they don't have to look elsewhere," says Stube.

Veterans Affairs officials estimate 4,000 veterans nationwide will be interested in the surgeries. The total cost of the program is not yet known or when it will be officially rolled out.

The announcement, Secretary Denis McDonough made at a Pride Month event in Orlando Saturday, is the latest in a series of moves by the Biden administration to expand protections and benefits to transgender individuals in the military.

For transgender veterans like McKay, she feels this is a move past a dark history of discrimination.

"They are saying hey, we got trans veterans and they served, they did their time, and we will now take care of you," she said.