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Transgender Veterans March to the Wall a Huge Success

For Immediate Release: 8 May 2004
From: The Transgender American Veterans Association (TAVA)
Media Contact: Tina Rice
Contact Email: media@transveteran.org
Contact Phone: 618.867.3028
Website: http://www.transveteran.org

May 1, 2004 – The Transgender Veterans March to the Wall, sponsored by the Transgender American Veterans Association (TAVA), turned out to be a greater success than the planners hoped for. Fifty transgender veterans attended in Washington, DC, many getting their first chance to face the Vietnam Memorial and the friends they lost in that war. Others came because they felt a need to meet with other transgender veterans, to feel close to others who had the same experiences as they did in the military. Attending were veterans from WWII, Korean War, Vietnam War, the first Gulf War, and all the peace times in between. Ages ranged from 77 to 27 years old.

The day started on a high note when Sgt Brett Parsons of the Metro Police Dept gave the transgender veterans’ bus a police escort from the hotel to the Wall, complete with lights and sirens. He even got out of his car once to direct another car out of the way. He did it again when the group went to the Iwo Jima memorial.

At the Wall, emotions ran high. Tears flowed like rain, as all the pain and loss from the Vietnam War and other wars came flooding back. Everyone who attended walked away affected, no matter how many times they had visited the Wall. One attendee, Sara Gibson, had tried five times in the past to approach either the Wall in DC, or the Mobile Wall, and could not get within 100 feet. This time, she made it, and it helped to have other transgender veterans with her.

In the afternoon, members of TAVA, including; Carol Krohn, Charlene Walsh and Sara Gibson headed to Arlington Cemetery to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. The structured and precise ceremony at the Tomb followed the changing of the guards. When the time came, the Master Sergeant of the Guards marched out and announced in bold, strong words, “This wreath being laid is provided by the Transgender American Veterans Association.” Even long-time activists, like Phyllis Frye began to cry.

Lisa Mottet, from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force said, “As one of the handful of non-transgender people there, it was a privilege and honor for me to be able to participate in the emotions and healing of the day. I was unprepared for, and delightfully surprised by, the wave of pride and honor as the Army guards at the Tomb authoritatively and respectfully declared that the wreath being laid was provided by the Transgender American Veterans Association. The emotion and significance of that precise moment was palpable.”

“Beyond the historic implications of the laying of the wreath — as well as the march itself,” remarked Vanessa Foster, Chair of the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition, “the ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was devastatingly touching. The irony of the moment with the current war in Iraq was not lost on me. What was truly heartwarming was the lack of snickers, remarks, double takes, and other reactions from the non-transgender crowd when the wreath laying occurred. The reaction was no different, no less reverent than for any other enlisted person. That is exactly as it should be.”

Angela Brightfeather, TAVA Special Projects Chair, was quoted in the National Center for Transgender Equality (NTCE) Newsletter as saying, “As people watched us cry at the Tomb of the Unknown when the wreath was dedicated and announced as coming from the Transgender American Veterans Association, everyone present knew and understood that they were at that moment a part of a historical event. Humanity was honored in that short period of time.”

The NTCE’s Newsletter goes on to say, “Never before has an organization had the vision to organize such an event and NTCE applauds TAVA for the success of this weekend and their service to transgender veterans.”

The day ended with a buffet dinner at the hotel. Several stood up to share their emotional thoughts of the event. Abigail Eileen Forester, a young, non-transgender person there with her parents, had written an inspirational poem called “Price of a Tear.” All the attendees felt moved by her words. The poem can be found on the TAVA web site at: http://transveteran.org/march-to-the-wall/price-of-a-tear/ along with what others felt about their experience that day.

The Transgender American Veterans Association (TAVA) acts proactively with other concerned GLBT organizations to ensure that transsexual and transgender veterans will receive appropriate care for medical conditions in accordance with the Veterans Health Administration Customer Service Standards promise to “treat you with courtesy and dignity, as the first class citizen that you are.” Further, TAVA will help in educating the VA and the US military on issues regarding a fair and equal treatment of transgender and transsexual individuals. TAVA will also advocate for a change in public law and policy that will help initiate this fair and equal treatment.

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Denny Meyer

Sgt. First Class Denny Meyer, the son of WWII Holocaust refugees, was reared bilingually in the mid 1940s postwar immigrant refugee community on New York City ‘s Upper West Side . His mother, he notes with pride, arrived at Ellis Island as an illegal alien fleeing Nazi persecution. She taught him that, “there is nothing more precious than American Freedom.”

He has been an activist for over 50 years, starting with his first march with the NAACP at the age of 13 in 1960, working for civil rights, women’s rights, and gay rights and transgender rights for our military service members and veterans.

In 1968 he volunteered, “To pay my country back for my family’s freedom.” He served for ten years in two services; in the Navy aboard an aircraft carrier, in a Huey helicopter squadron HQ, at NATO US headquarters; and in specialized Army Reserve units; and served as an inter-agency liaison and negotiator.

Sgt. Denny has spoken at universities and colleges including Brown, Columbia, Harvard, Hofstra, and Lehman (CUNY) among other venues; combining history, humor, pathos, and anger to tell his story.

In addition to serving as TAVA’s Media Director, he is the national Public Affairs and Veterans Affairs officer of AVER and edits GayMilitarySignal.com.

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