He's now a she and wants to serve the VFW as a woman
^this is the article's title, not mine!
The retired 24-year Navy veteran had worked alongside members of General MacArthur Memorial Post 392 since last year: making Sunday breakfasts, passing out gift bags at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and serving as its chaplain.
Bush spoke with post commander Joe Brady, who gave Bush permission to speak at the April meeting about being transgender. The term refers to people whose gender identities, expressions or behaviors differ from that of the sex they were born.
But Brady didn't expect Bush, 44, to show up wearing what would have been appropriate for a female post officer: blue blazer, woman's necktie, gray skirt, lipstick and pumps.
"First, let me say that I love Post 392 and the work I do here," Bush told the group. "But as you can see, I am undergoing a life-altering transformation."
She said she has started to be true to herself, just as she was to her country for 24 years.
"I hope that you can feel it in your hearts to embrace Laura Bush with the same warmth of comradeship and friendship that you have shown to Larry," Bush told the group.
Brady, however, said Bush disrupted the post by coming in dressed as a female, upsetting and embarrassing other members - many of whom are in their 50s and 60s.
He has contacted district and state representatives, who Brady said communicated with the national VFW organization.
The outcome of those discussions is that Bush remains a member of the post but can't attend meetings dressed as a woman until Bush changes her name or has a full sex-change operation.
Under VFW bylaws, Brady said he can ask any member or non-member who is creating a disturbance to leave.
"We're asking that one day a month when he comes into the post to be in appropriate attire," Brady said. "He can wear whatever he wants the rest of the time."
Bush has started the name-change process.
She filed a petition with the Virginia Beach Circuit Court for a name change from Laurence Roger Bush to Laura Rae Bush. And she's hoping to start hormone therapy next month.
But Bush questions why she was not allowed to attend the post's May meeting dressed as a woman.
She argues the VFW's bylaws say nothing about a dress code.
And she worries she might get kicked out of an organization that's supposed to accept everybody who has an honorable discharge from the armed forces.
"The VFW means a lot to me," Bush said. "I would do anything that they asked me to do - besides quit."
Jerry Newberry, a spokesman for the national organization, said he has no knowledge of his organization being contacted.
Newberry referred to a bylaw that says that no person shall be deprived of membership except for not paying dues.
"If we were asked, we would never give an opinion that that member could not attend a meeting because of his circumstances," Newberry said.
He said the VFW is diverse and noted that Bush meets the qualification for membership: Bush served her country honorably.
A national advocacy group, the Transgender American Veterans Association, estimates that there are about 300,000 transgender veterans in the United States.
"We have had many of our people that are serving in VFWs across the country right now," vice president and co-founder Angela Brightfeather said. "Some of them on the color guards for the post."
The national VFW organization has been cooperative at the national level with the transgender veterans groups, Brightfeather said.
"In working with other veterans groups, we have always found that the first rule that applies is 'is this person a veteran?' " If the person is a veteran who was honorably discharged, then that person should be afforded all due respect for the same service to country as every other veteran, Brightfeather said.
Brightfeather did not know of any other situation in which a transgender veteran could not attend a VFW post meeting dressed in women's clothing.
Bush's desire to join the military - and her feelings that she was somehow different - both date back to childhood.
She knew she wanted to join the Navy when she watched the America's Cup from her father's ship in 1972.
Bush enlisted in 1983, spent four years in the reserves, then went on active duty working as a cook.
In 2008, Bush retired with an honorable discharge as a petty officer first class and joined the VFW in Texas.
Last year, Bush moved to Virginia Beach to be closer to her sons and transferred her membership to Post 392.
Meanwhile, Bush always felt different. She said she eventually realized she wanted to be a woman.
"It's not one of those spur-of-the-moment things," Bush said. "I've talked to plenty of doctors about this."
wtf. i can't believe these people. she served the country honorably. let her join. and they act all surprised about her walking in with woman's clothes in a meeting about TRANSGENDERED PEOPLE. c'mon now.
EDITEDIT: Okay. I believe everything is in place now. (Except for some reason, I can't remove the gay rights tag... OTL) Please let me know if there's anything else wrong that I need to fix! And I apologize deeply again for anyone I unintentionally offended!