For the first time, LGBT organizations were invited to participate in the May 6 Orlando Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center’s Diversity Day, an annual event with tents, tables and food that celebrates different cultures within the VA. This representation is part of a larger integration between the VA and the local LGBT community.
Kerri Griffin-Edenfield is a therapist at the clinic and has become the first ever LGBT special emphasis program manager, serving as the liaison who is bringing forth these gay-friendly partnerships within the VA. She has lead a gay-focused veteran’s group for almost a year, and the membership has grown from one person to 10 regular participants.
“It was a fight to get this group at the VA, because of confidentiality,” Griffin- Edenfield said.
But she said the specialized support is much needed.
“As one of my vets said, they’re a minority of a minority of a minority,” she said.
On June 3, the LGBT representation will become even stronger when the VA hosts a community event featuring resources and speakers that will be open to veterans and staff.
“It’s not just talk about LGBT veterans, but the community as a whole,” Griffin-Edenfield said.
Speakers include city commissioner Patty Sheehan, ECHO Interaction Group CEO Carlos Carbonell, The Center executive director Randy Stephens and openly gay veteran Mark Cady, who is also the Orlando Sales Director for Watermark.
Griffin-Edenfield calls the event “a big deal” and said, “I’m really excited because we’ve never done this before.”
She said she deals with a lot of gay and lesbian veterans, plus two transgender vets in her six years at the VA.
“I’m happy because I think it’s a population that’s been overlooked, and it’s not just the veterans, it’s for people applying for work [at the VA],” she said. “It’s making sure diversity is included in the hiring process plus how we serve and treat our veterans.”
Written by Jamie Hyman