Written by: Institute Fellow Victoria Doster, MSW
If you had the chance to serve a veteran, would you?
While we may all answer this question differently, most of our answers would be a race to say yes. This question could be compared to a schoolteacher asking a room of students, “Who wants a cookie?”. As we can imagine almost every hand raising, as the nature of the question provides immediate answer, let’s also imagine the students who may ask what kind of cookies are being offered.
While you may not ask what kind of veteran you would be serving, it may be appropriate to ask, what is your competency in veteran health and service? And in what capacity are you qualified to serve a veteran, with the competency level that you possess?
One of you is bound to ask what the difference is between a veteran and a regular client. While the answer to that is complex, in simplicity, intersectionality is the answer. Veteran status adds an extra layer of identity to our clients. Intersectionality is something that we must acknowledge.
While an average civilian could be described as a chocolate chip cookie, a veteran could described as a chocolate chip oatmeal cookie. Add a LGBTQ+ identity to the cookie, and it is now a chocolate chip oatmeal raisin cookie and so on… The cookie becomes a bit more complicated and the more ingredients that are added, make it less likely that the cookies will be of liking for everyone.
While I am not at all implying that I expect any provider or clinician to know everything about every client population, it is our duty to be willing to become competent when we are not.
The brief 45 minute documentary below, Camouflage Closet (2014), gives a glimpse into the complexities of being an LGBTQ+ service member or Veteran. This documentary features personal stories about trauma and recovery among nine Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Veterans. The film was created as a community-based participatory art project with the goal of increasing awareness among medical providers, Veterans, and LGBT communities regarding their unique experiences of serving under LGBT-related military policies, such as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) and the ban on transgender military service.