Veteran claims she was harassed, discriminated against because of gender

Charlene Lauderdale says she was born with both male, female reproductive organs

HOUSTON - A veteran said she was harassed and discriminated against at Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center because of her gender.

Charlene Lauderdale said she was born with both male and female reproductive organs.

Lauderdale's parents raised her as a boy named Charlie. Lauderdale served in the United States Air Force.

"I was on active duty for almost 10 years and then the reserves for the rest of my career," Lauderdale said.

Lauderdale said she received a Purple Heart for her service in Desert Storm.

In recent years, Lauderdale said she felt more like a woman, so she started identifying as one and changed her name to Charlene. She said now when she goes to Debakey for ongoing treatment, she is discriminated against by the staff.

"They call me sir, or f*g in a dress. They told me, 'You don't deserve treatment anyway and I don't want to be bothered by people like yourself,'" said Lauderdale. "I just want to be treated like every other veteran that goes to the VA hospital."

Lauderdale said she complained to hospital supervisors on several occasions about the behavior, but it hasn't stopped.

Dr. Karin Thompson, with DeBakey, said the hospital has a broad non-discrimination policy that covers gender and sexual orientation. Thompson would not comment on Lauderdale's claims or whether she had filed any complaints.

"I can't say anything about any veteran in particular due to privacy issues," said Thompson. "Veterans are entitled to be called by the name they prefer and the gender they prefer."

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