This letter is long overdue, but I wanted to thank the National LGBT Bar Association, specifically, D’Arcy Kemnitz, Steve Ralls and Stephan Lessard, for their amazing work on my behalf.
Over a year ago, several military Veterans were contacted in regards to approaching the various services for corrections to our military DD FM (Department of Defense Form) 214’s. The DD FM 214 is a person’s sole collaborative record of their military service. It essentially breaks down one’s years of service, military training, rank and type of discharge, among other things.
The 214, as it is often abbreviated to, is the first thing an employer asks to see when one applies for a job or the Veterans Administration asks for when applying for benefits. It is, in a nutshell, all one has to really show for their years of service and the gateway to the benefits that may ensue.
Up until this action by the National LGBT Bar Association, the DD FM 214 was impossible to have corrected when an individual such as myself goes through a gender-change process.
As a resident of Florida it was rather easy to change my driver’s license and concealed weapons permit once my name change was approved by the courts. The Social Security Administration has long been a rather easy process once a legal name change was awarded and even the State Department has streamlined their process for passports. However, the 214 remained the one red herring that pulled all attention back to a gender change, most notably in regards to employment.
The fact that the Army Board of Corrections has ruled to allow changes to my DD FM 214 means that now all of my identifying documents will be consistent with my legal name. But it didn’t stop there. The National LGBT Bar Association was specific and clear enough to illustrate the importance of this to the board and as a result, they also agreed to change my gender in my records. While gender is not reflected in the DD FM 214, it was a coup de grace to the remnants of what remained in government records to my gender assigned at birth. This precedence is especially important to some individuals that have undergone legal name changes prior to discharge (and thus their correct name was on the DD FM 214) but were often left with the name at birth in the remarks block of the DD FM 214. Imagine trying to apply for a job as ‘Karen’ when the 214 has ‘Kevin’ in the remarks. It still left one exposed to the scrutiny of their gender-change and instantly outed even the most stealth transgender person.
Since our victory, I have been contacted on a regular basis from transgender Veterans that are trying to change their records. Many are still being denied. This is most likely due to some administrative error on the requests as opposed to outright denial by the respective boards. I have, and will continue to encourage everyone to reach out to the National LGBT Bar Association for guidance through this process and it will also allow the organization to track the impact of this decision and have an idea of how many Veterans have actually benefitted from their efforts. As an organization that has fought for our rights on many fronts, it’s the least we can do to give credit where credit is due.
My thanks to all those involved and hearty congratulations to those that have put themselves out there in order to pave the way for those that come after. What was once a monumental boulder in the path of the transgender community is now a small pebble thanks to their efforts.
Dayna Walker is a retired Army First Sergeant currently serves as the Market Intelligence Officer (S-2) with the United States Army Recruiting Command in Tampa, Florida. Dayna is President Emeritus of the Transgender American Veterans Association and currently serves as a board member and advisory board member for several LGBT organizations.