First transgender veteran has military documents changed
May 30th, 2013
10:19 AM ET

First transgender veteran has military documents changed

By Michael Chen, KGTV

(KGTV) – It's a first in the history of the military, as the Pentagon officially recognized a local Navy veteran's change of gender.

Born a male, Autumn Sandeen said as a teen, she identified as a female.

She joined the Navy, lived as male and kept her secret for two decades before retiring.

"If I would have been myself, I would have been kicked out," said Sandeen.

According to military guidelines, gender identity issues are a mental disorder and detrimental to good order and discipline.

In 2011, as the ban on gays and lesbians was lifted, the transgender ban remained.

"The best way to explain it is I felt like a bridesmaid, never a bride," said Sandeen.

Twenty months later, a step down the aisle toward acceptance.

"I felt tremendous, like I accomplished something, not just himself, but for the broader transgender community," said Sandeen.

It's a process that began in 2011. She appealed to the VA, then the Pentagon. It ended with the Pentagon granting her an official change of gender on all military documents.

She submitted a mountain of paperwork, including a revised birth certificate.

It's the first documented case of a gender change in the military.

"They're acknowledging that transgender people exist and not completely off their rockers," Sandeen told 10News.

Sandeen said the recognition of a veteran's gender change forces the question: why shouldn't an active service member be able to change as well?

One thing suddenly helping her cause: as of mid-May 2013, psychiatric manuals no longer classify gender identity issues as a mental disorder.

"I feel like we should able to serve openly because we are physically able to serve openly. It's not a disorder," said Sandeen.

Sandeen hopes the U.S. will join seven other countries in allowing transgender troops.

There is no word from the Pentagon on whether the change in the psychiatric manuals could prompt a change in policy.

Click here for a previous story featuring Sandeen. (Mobile users: http://bit.ly/TaDGOD)

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Filed under: History • How we live • Military • Sexual orientation • Veterans
soundoff (44 Responses)
  1. The fact of the matter

    "... including a revised birth certificate." Thanks to help from a certain someone who sits in an oval office.

    May 31, 2013 at 7:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Navy_Chief

      If you are referring to President Obama, your wrong. Try Governor Brown (1978), and the Governors of a dozen other states that signed legislation authorizing correcting birth certificates in the 70s.

      May 31, 2013 at 8:33 am | Report abuse |
      • It's a joke

        "Correcting" birth certificates is humorous to me. He was born a male, is still a male - maybe a male who likes "dressing up", but still a male - and changing a piece of paper isn't going to change that.

        Oops. We made a "clerical" error. Someone misidentified an innie as an outie. Here. Let us correct the paperwork.

        May 31, 2013 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
  2. MrId

    Klinger did it first back in Korea.....

    May 31, 2013 at 6:53 am | Report abuse |
  3. AMERICA 1st

    I figure if a male wants to pretend its a female, put a wig, a skirt and pumps on and paint its face up a lil bit to hide its hideousness as best it can!!!

    May 31, 2013 at 6:29 am | Report abuse |

      Or as you call it Friday Night

      May 31, 2013 at 10:25 am | Report abuse |
  4. AMERICA 1st

    I agree with Jasmine. Whether a person chooses to mutilate themselves or not, whatever gender they was born as will always remain. Personally, i dont understand self mutilation like what that male did to itself!!!

    May 31, 2013 at 6:25 am | Report abuse |
  5. Pie

    What the real problem is standard gender roles. Humans are individuals not gender widgets to be molded into a social pattern.

    May 31, 2013 at 5:43 am | Report abuse |
  6. Jasmine

    Genetics and/or gender can not be changed .... the DNA is still MALE, therefore even if the outside changed, you are still the gender you were born as.

    May 31, 2013 at 5:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Navy_Chief

      Not necessarily.

      May 31, 2013 at 8:37 am | Report abuse |
  7. spangler

    Percent of gays: Marines,Army,Air Force all 1%. .Navy 57%.

    May 31, 2013 at 3:11 am | Report abuse |
  8. ProudNana

    If the gender change was done prior to joining the military, then she should have enlisted as a female. If this change occurred after military service was completed, then records should not be changed. If in this case she was born a male, and served as a male, then the records should reflect that, and she just cost the USA more money we don't have to serve personal needs.

    May 31, 2013 at 1:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Edwin

      Why shouldn't the records change? She is currently female - so the VA should treat her as such - particularly with regard to medical coverage... although I am not really sure what sort of health problems a transgendered person tends to face - since their biology is quite different from a natural-born female.

      May 31, 2013 at 2:06 am | Report abuse |
      • S1N

        The VA isn't there to be your primary caregiver. The VA is there to assist in meeting their applicable contractual obligations (such as the GI Bill) and to provide medical care for conditions that are directly related to a veteran's military service. This lady's gender change did not occur during service, nor is the military directly responsible for it. As such, the VA shouldn't cover any medical issues arising from it, as it is not the VA's purpose to handle ALL medical needs. Whether or not Tricare (the health insurance provider for military personnel and retirees) should cover these needs is a different matter altogether (I tend to believe Tricare should).

        May 31, 2013 at 2:20 am | Report abuse |
      • Just because

        The records shouldn't change because "she" is still male. Your quote is awesome - is shows a fundamental lack of introspection:

        She is currently female – so the VA should treat her as such ... since their biology is quite different from a natural-born female.

        "Her" biology is "quite different" because "she" is not female, she's male. Treating "her" as female is to avoid the elephant: "she" is not.

        May 31, 2013 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
      • Sol


        If you are above 50% overall disability, it is the VA's responsibility to be your primary care provider. Stop spouting off about things you only read about and presume to be an expert about.

        May 31, 2013 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
  9. chollima1178

    I don't doubt his/her mental competence, but the problem wih active duty transgendered folk is that hormones don't change everything. A man's bone density will always be stronger than a female's even if he got gender reassignment surgery and did all the hormones, and vice versa. There is no such thing as a 100% physioligical conversion and that alone creates problems for the military as far as fitness testing, medical issues, flight phyiscals, etc go, not so much the 'mental disorder' thing.

    May 31, 2013 at 1:34 am | Report abuse |
  10. Teamski

    And how is transgenders issues NOT a mental disorder? I am fully aware that being gay and having a gender assignment disorder are hardwired, but they are technically disorders. I am all for gay marriage, but to say that being gay is biologically normal is downright ignorant. Sorry, but science doesn't lie.

    May 31, 2013 at 12:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Sam

      While not entirely conclusive, the weight of scientific evidence indicates that being gay is at least partially based in genetics.

      May 31, 2013 at 1:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Mal

      Technically, you're totally wrong. Being gay is not considered a mental disorder. Also the difference in physical standards is only important in the Infantry. Most men in the military are paper-pushers, and there's nothing they do that women can't.

      May 31, 2013 at 1:50 am | Report abuse |
    • Dee

      Being gay isn't considered a mental disorder anymore either. You don't have to agree with that decision by the medical community but at least be aware that is where science is at right now.

      May 31, 2013 at 2:04 am | Report abuse |
  11. Transgender Person

    It's always irritating how absolute morons without even a basic knowledge of medicine or psychiatry presume to judge me for my medical condition. I hope I get to comment on your medical treatments at some point, too. I think a few of you need brain transplants.

    May 31, 2013 at 12:36 am | Report abuse |
    • ritgar

      Ignore the idiots, I've always said if God made 10,000 kinds of butterflies she had to have made more than 2 kinds of peopl/.

      May 31, 2013 at 1:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Pat Savu

      One of the health insurance plans I had would not pay for my CA-15 (cancer antigen-15) test on a quartery basis after I had surgery for breast cancer. I had to pay for the test myself until Nov when I changed to a different plan. I am not against gender reassignment, I just don't think that taxpayers via the VA should pay for it. The need for transgender reassignemt was not caused by military service but long predated that.

      May 31, 2013 at 9:35 am | Report abuse |
  12. Luek

    They should have posted before and after photos. I just bet he or she looked a whole lot better as a male rather than a female !

    This of course is really nothing new. Wasn't it Christine Jorgenson from the 1950's ?

    May 31, 2013 at 12:21 am | Report abuse |
  13. jetfuel4

    This is priceless......the damage caused by the progressive's will be un-paralleled. Soon the military will have to pay for active duty personel who want this...amongst other things. And if you don't go along with it....some "educated" elite will dismiss you as they "advance" civilization...hahahahahaha.....what a world this is now.....hahahahaha

    May 30, 2013 at 11:32 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Mike

    Gross. I'm so tired of the LGBT agenda on the front page of CNN, NPR, and every other media outlet these days. Just keep it in your bedroom like all the rest of us. Our country's got better things to worry about.

    May 30, 2013 at 11:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gravel road

      Where is it defined that this is a LGBT agenda/issue other than in your own head?

      May 30, 2013 at 11:35 pm | Report abuse |
      • Mike

        The "T" part of LGBT makes is an LGBT issue.
        The fact that you can't drive to work without NPR doing some story on LGBT, and the fact that you can't open cnn.com without seeing a story on this stuff, makes it an agenda.

        May 30, 2013 at 11:58 pm | Report abuse |
      • bardmorgan

        Just out of curiosity, you ARE aware that the "T" in LGBT stands for "Transgender," right?

        May 31, 2013 at 1:12 am | Report abuse |
  15. Mensaboy

    Why don't we call it what it is, a birth defect? A brain born in the wrong body.

    May 30, 2013 at 10:10 pm | Report abuse |
  16. Zackary

    Congratulations, Autumn Sandeen. I am an transguy and I am honored to hear this. I do not have any mental disorder and I am perfectly healthy. A piece of paper will not classify who I am or what they believe is wrong with me. I live an awesome life and everybody deserves so much awesomeness as well. I create a world of happiness and acceptance by being honorable, capable and true to myself.

    May 30, 2013 at 9:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • One Man Among Others

      As do you.

      May 30, 2013 at 11:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Disgusting

      Yep concur with your analysis...it's some type of deep psychosis

      May 31, 2013 at 1:03 am | Report abuse |
    • Zackary

      You guys are mean.

      May 31, 2013 at 2:31 am | Report abuse |
    • outinkansas

      Good for you Zackary. The mean people replying to you have more issues than they "imagine" you have. You're fine, their problem is they don't understand the courage it takes to just be yourself. I'm gay, and I deeply regret the years I wasted because of fear.

      May 31, 2013 at 11:06 am | Report abuse |
  17. Jack

    Congratulations, Autumn.

    May 30, 2013 at 8:26 pm | Report abuse |
  18. Jack

    This article would have readers believe that the military continues to live in the stone age by classifying gender dysphoria as a mental disorder. The reality is, it's classified that way by the "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders", too.

    May 30, 2013 at 8:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jenn Burleton

      Actually, Jack... it's not. It is called "Gender Dysphoria" and it is most definitely NOT classified as a mental disorder in the DSM-5, which is the current edition and the only one that applies.

      May 30, 2013 at 11:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ronnie

      Jack your information is incorrect. It is no longer in the DSM5 which was recently released. Please give correct infromation before you speak. I work with Transgender clients.

      May 30, 2013 at 11:42 pm | Report abuse |
  19. Kandric

    Congratulations! This is a great step towards tolerance, acceptance and understanding.

    May 30, 2013 at 5:18 pm | Report abuse |
  20. Jennifer

    Its common for a lot of those whom are transgender to go thru a Ultra-Manly phase, made seek out military service. There are many Transgender Vets, most would still willingly serve.

    May 30, 2013 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |