Coast Guard Veteran Zander Keig, MS, MSW, LCSW, is the National Association of Social Workers Social Worker of the Year. Keig has devoted his entire career to promoting the dignity and health of people who are transgender, living with a mental illness, or serving in our nation’s military. He is currently a senior clinical consultant and is an advanced mental health care course instructor/panel moderator at the World Professional Association of Transgender Health (WPATH) – Global Education Initiative.
Keig is also a proud transgender man.
He is currently a senior clinical consultant designing and delivering organizational wellness, diversity, and conflict management webinars and an advanced mental health care course instructor and panel moderator with the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) – Global Education Initiative.
Keig talked to Social Work Blog about how people who are transgender are being treated in the Biden Administration.
Q: What were your concerns about the treatment of people who are transgender under the previous administration?
Keig: I had the good fortune and honor to serve as the Clinical Social Work Case Manager on the Navy Medicine West (NMW) Transgender Care Team (TGCT) from July 2016 to January 2019. During that time period, I developed and managed the intake, orientation, and case management processes and worked with 225 active-duty Sailors, Marines, and Coasties navigating a Command Approved gender transition. Although there was a succession of three tweets by President Trump in August 2017, which alluded to banning open service for transgender servicemembers, that change did not officially take place until April 2019 and thankfully recently ended. Under the policy in effect since April 2019, those servicemembers already in the pipeline, who had a gender dysphoria diagnosis or a gender transition treatment plan, were permitted to continue their journey unimpeded. Those not in the pipeline were not as fortunate, but still safe from arbitrary discharge. During my time on the NMW TGCT, the support for our work was evident from day one and the success of our work was apparent by the regular requests seeking training and guidance coming from across the NMW region and other branches of the military.
Q: Were you surprised that President Biden has nominated Rachel Levine to be an assistant secretary at HHS? What is the significance?
Keig: The precedence for elevating the visibility and stature of transgender people was set by President Obama when on December 31, 2009, he nominated Amanda Simpson for Senior Technical Adviser in the Bureau of Industry and Security at the U.S. Department of Commerce. Ms. Simpson went on the serve as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy and is now Vice President for Research and Technology at Airbus Americas. So I am not surprised that President Biden has nominated Dr. Rachel Levine. Dr. Levine’s tenure as Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health and her previous position as Pennsylvania Physician General has prepared her for the role. The fact that she is a transgender woman is neither here nor there. She is qualified because of her training and experience, she just happens to be transgender.
Q: What are your hopes for how people who are transgender will be treated in the military during the Biden Administration?
Keig: My hope is that, once again, servicemembers will be able to pursue a gender transition unimpeded by arbitrary obstacles. As a transgender veteran, transgender social care subject-matter expert, and former member of the NMW TGCT, I hope to once again offer my experience and knowledge to the Department of Defense.