Sharing her story: Transgender advocate brings personal tale to Veterans



Karen Kendra Holmes is a strong supporter and advocate for transgender people. She knows first-hand the challenges they can face in today’s society. Whether it’s sitting on numerous boards that advocate for gender quality, or a chance to speak to a group, she doesn’t pass up an opportunity to share her story in hopes of helping others.

“Talking about my experience, telling my story, that’s important to me,” Holmes explained, offering her story as inspiration to Veterans and VA staff who attended the National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month ceremony held at the Washington, D.C., VA Medical Center earlier this month.

Asking Holmes to be the keynote speaker at the medical center’s event was a “no-brainer,” according to Debbie Morris, a biomedical equipment support specialist with the medical center and the LGBT Committee Chair.

“I know her story and she is such a force for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community,” Morris explained.

Holmes’ birth name was Anthony. After years of personal struggles, including a failed marriage, she made up her mind to start the long process of transitioning from a man to a woman.

“Even though I was born male, in my heart, mind and spirit I knew I was female,” she said.

Holmes credits a conference she attended in Philadelphia on transgender issues as the driving force that changed her life forever. Over the next six years, she would go through counseling, gender reassignment surgery, get her driver license, passport and birth certificate all changed to reflect her new gender.

“I know firsthand the transgender journey can be very lonely and difficult,” she said. “I was fortunate and blessed about everything with my family, friends, co-workers and volunteer organizations.”

Veterans interested in additional information about health care for transgender and intersex Veterans should download VHA’s 2013-003 directive or contact the patient advocate at their VA medical center.

Transgender VA employees are protected from discrimination based on the Office of Personal Management’s guidance  which includes protection while transitioning at work, access to sanitary facilities and accurate documentation in employee files. More information about VA’s LGBT Program visit the Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s website or consult a VA human resources office.

Author

Dwayne Wingfield