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Transgender Vet Finds Help, Without Fear, At VA Hospital

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- There is a program available at the VA hospital in Minneapolis that's serving an often hidden population -- transgender veterans.

Peter Klicker served in the Marines as a woman, Karin Klicker. Years later, the veteran says he's finally found the help he's hoped for.

Klicker grew up in a house full of older brothers in the '60s and '70s. And, one summer, the then 7-year-old Karin convinced a group of guys she was a boy, so she'd be able to play baseball.

"When you're seven, you don't really think about that foresight," Klicker said. "My mother made me wear a dress on the first day of school."

Since then Klicker has traveled a long road. A member of a military family, he joined the Marines at the age of 18.

"I never really thought to myself: 'You know what? I think I'm a boy,'" Klicker said. "But I really felt more like: 'I don't feel comfortable as a girl.'"

Klicker is one of 30 transgender veterans getting services at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center. A directive last summer said all transgender veterans are entitled to the same level of care as any other veteran.

Jan James, a nurse practitioner at the medical center, has taken it a step further. As part of her doctorate program, she had to identify an underserved patient group. As part of her plan, the clinic now offers hormone therapy and counseling services to transgender veterans, so they're not forced to find black-market alternatives.

"My mission is not just to identify that group, but to give them a voice within the VA system," James said.

James believes it reflects a changing attitude of acceptance in the military. The directive happened around the same time the "don't ask, don't tell" policy ended.

For Klicker, the acceptance has restored his belief in the system he signed up for more than 30 years ago.

"That access -- and not having to be afraid -- it's just huge," Klicker said.

The U.S military, however, does not allow transgender people to openly serve. But after their terms of duty and transition, they are allowed services like hormone therapy.

Also, the VA Medical Center does not provide or pay for sex re-assignment surgery.

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