California Veteran Shares Story of Gender Transition

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SACRAMENTO-

A local transgender veteran is sharing her story of transitioning with FOX40.

"I knew I was a soldier in the military but I felt like I was a female," Trudi Annelise Mathison said.

Mathison says she served in the army from 1978 to 1985, but has since changed her full name. Now, thirty years after fighting for our country, she is fighting for her identity.

"Now, it just feels like I flow just like water," Mathison said.

Although Mathison says she has felt like a woman her entire life, her physical transition into a woman has taken place rather quickly. Just months after starting hormone therapy and health counseling, Mathison decided to have sex reassignment surgery. It's a procedure some transgender men and women never chose to have.

"I'm going backwards. I'm starting from the bottom and going up. And I think it might be better that way," Mathison said.

Trudi told FOX40 a doctor in the United States quoted her $26,000 for the procedure. She chose to have surgery in Tijuana, Mexico for $8,500 as a way to save on medical expenses. She said the surgery was botched.

"I came home and some of my bottom parts kind of you know, came out. I had to call an ambulance and the EMTs didn't know what to do," Mathison said.

She's spent the past two years revising that operation. And becoming more confident in the woman she feels she was meant to be.

"I've been doing so much in the past 2 years and 5 months, it's just amazing," Mathison said.

Part of that time, Trudi lived in a transitional housing program provided by the Veteran's Resource Center in Sacramento.

Although the VA does not cover sex reassignment surgery, the VA Healthcare Directive for Transgender and Intersex Veterans say it is their policy to provide medically necessary post-operative care. Additionally, the VA's Homeless Provider's Grant funds housing at the Veteran's Resource Center, which placed Trudi in their women's housing unit.

"The VA has shown leadership in this area in the past, and I believe this is really an opportunity for them to show that leadership," Ben Hudson said.

Hudson is the Executive Director at Sacramento's Gender Health Center. It is another local support group Trudi relies on.

"What we find is my survival is your survival and so when I'm fighting to make sure that everything is going y to be okay for you, I am really able to be alive. Trudy has felt that and seen that in our community, you know, we work for each other," Hudson said.

The Gender Health Center works with hundreds of transgender people in Sacramento, a city considered to have a strong transgender community. But the national data on transgender people is limited. The most frequently cited national study from UCLA, conducted in 2011, estimated there were 700,000 transgender Americans.

Some argue when such information is under reported, it tends to be overlooked.

Ninety percent of people who responded to a recent national transgender discrimination survey reported employment discrimination, or said they hid who they were to avoid it. Fifty-three percent of people reported being verbally harassed or disrespected in public places.

"It's gonna take some time before society changes and understands how we feel," Mathison said.

Trudi's story is not the transgender story, but simply one of countless unique and very personal stories.

" I've got negative reactions or people who keep looking back and forth at me. Trying to decide who I was or who I am. I just figure they're trying to figure it out, and I already figured out who I am," Mathison said.

Mathison said her future plan was to become a peer counselor in the transgender community, so she can pay back all those people who have helped her along the way.

"I think that's my calling. I would tell them about my struggling and tell them it's not that bad. It will get better as you get older," Mathison said.

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