Earlier this week, the Daily Beast reported on veterans who requested that Department of Veteran Affairs provide taxpayer-funded surgery geared toward gender transition.
“I put my life on the line for this country multiple times,” one of the individuals said. “I think that the least [the VA] can do for me is provide the medical coverage that I’m seeking.”
But not everyone agreed that the VA should provide those tax-payer funded treatments.
Jamie Shupe, a former army sergeant who identifies as non-binary, disagreed and regretted trying to become a female after serving in the military.
“I don’t support the VA lifting the surgery exclusion because of all the complications that don’t get reported by the media,” Shupe said in a statement provided to IJR on Saturday.
The Beast’s report came amid multiple attempts by the Trump administration to alter federal policy surrounding individuals who identified as transgender.
Perhaps most controversially, the administration announced last year that it would prohibit military admissions for those individuals as well as block Defense Department resources from supporting surgeries on individuals’ genitals.
“I also don’t think surgery cures gender dysphoria and there’s plenty of articles that support that. If I did, I would have had [the surgery] already, my pension is easily big enough to pay for it without the VA,” Shupe added.
But in an interview earlier this year with IJR, Shupe described the intense pain and distress created by hormone therapy.
For weeks, Shupe received estrogen injections which eventually led to severe depression and hospitalization. “By week 5, the injections sent me into the worst depression of my life after they quickly shut off my testosterone,” Shupe told IJR.
“When I then quit the injections I had neither estrogen or testosterone and ended up in the psych ward twice in November and December of 2017. My emotions were uncontrollable,” Shupe said.
Some of Shupe’s treatment created bruising, a weakened bladder, popped blood vessels in the eyes, and long-term kidney problems.
On Saturday, Shupe provided IJR with an update:
“I’m a decorated trans vet who gets hormones and my medical care from the VA — which in many cases hasn’t gone well because it was administered by their primary care doctors and not endocrinologists. Five years into treatment, I’m now seeing an endo[crinologist] for the first time after a host of complications. At one point, my estrogen level was 2,585. After that, they put me on 6mg of oral estrogen at age 54 and put me in the [Emergency Room] with leg vein and kidney problems. Even their own guidelines state not to be giving oral hormones at my age. I have the med[ical] records to prove what I’m saying.”
The Trump administration reportedly planned to interpret a federal discrimination statute through a definition of sex that focused on biological characteristics. That definition sparked an uproar among progressive advocates who claimed that it erased individuals like Jennifer Finney Boylan, who identifies as a transgender woman.
As IJR previously reported, Shupe and some self-described “ex-transgender” individuals supported the administration’s decision. But a raft of organizations — including the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics — vehemently criticized the administration’s decision.
In a letter sent earlier this month, those groups and others argued that the administration’s proposed definition ran “counter to decades of medical science and legal jurisprudence.”
“Gender identity and assigned sex at birth can be different one from the other, and that difference needs to be recognized in order to effectively guarantee access to care for transgender people,” the letter read.
Both Dr. Paul McHugh, former head of psychiatry at John’s Hopkins Hospital, and American College of Pediatricians president Dr. Michelle Cretella contradicted the letter.
“We are all in favor of social justice and have therapeutic concerns and proposals for these subjects,” McHugh told IJR, “but I do not see any reason for believing that denying the biological truth about sex will bring better justice to them or others or more successful therapies – more likely the opposite.”
Correction [11/17/18, 5:34 p.m. EST]: An earlier version of this story inaccurately claimed Shupe tried transitioning while in the military. The military service preceded the attempted transition. This story has also been updated to include additional comments from Shupe.