“For those of us who are older who (were) around when ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was here, even though everyone says it’s safe to talk, (we still) struggle with that. For so long as an older LGBT member, that just was never, never shared, and so I hid myself quite well in making sure people didn’t know. Now we can be open; let’s come together.”
Major Angela Shrader
Madigan Army Medical Center, chief of Residential Treatment Facility
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender service members can now join a newly-formed support group at Madigan Army Medical Center.
The LGBT support group meets the second Thursday of every month at 5 p.m. at the Richmond Conference Room. Service members can participate on a drop-in basis.
“We want to be able to support the LGBT groups of military service members that are here, that may not have those people they feel comfortable to reach out to and talk to, especially the transgender population,” said Maj. Angela Shrader, chief of Madigan’s Residential Treatment Facility and a doctorate psychiatric nurse practitioner. She also serves as a co-facilitator of the group.
While some other military treatment facilities offer such groups, this LGBT support group is the first of its kind at Madigan. Shrader said that although LGBT members can now openly serve, many service members still feel trepidation about being open with others in the military.
“For those of us who are older who (were) around when ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was here, even though everyone says it’s safe to talk, (we still) struggle with that,” Shrader said. “For so long as an older LGBT member, that just was never, never shared, and so I hid myself quite well in making sure people didn’t know. Now we can be open; let’s come together.”
In addition to active-duty LGBT service members, their spouses and significant others can also attend the group. The group’s other co-facilitator and a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, 1st Lt. Casey Strong, said LGBT service members previously had to keep their family lives separate from their work lives.
One of the goals of the group is to work to incorporate both their work and family spheres.
“This (group) will offer 100 percent familial support, (with) no judgment and no discrimination whatsoever,” Strong said.
Although she and Shrader work at Madigan, the group is for mutual support amongst peers and not therapy.
They said they hope LGBT service members can build connections and a community with each other. Such support may help address unique stressors within the LGBT community.
Transgender people, in particular, are at a higher risk of suicide.
Shrader said she sees the group as a way for LGBT service members to pull together and be a network for those people that may be struggling or just need somebody to reach out to. She envisions the group as one that is driven by what its members choose to focus on each month.
Strong said she hopes the group will build connections with area LGBT communities through volunteer work, as a tie to their larger culture.
“Just being proud of who you are is something that we can finally offer,” she said.
To learn more about the LGBT support group, call 253-968-3667.