Transgender veteran finds himself through yoga and community

Jay Cambridge has embraced many changes over the course of his life. He’s a veteran, a yoga instructor, and he’s transgender. Each of these transitions helped him become the person he is today.

Cambridge enlisted in the Air Force in 2008 and spent six years serving as a security forces aviator. During this time, he served in Korea and traveled to over 30 countries.

“The Air Force has been an incredible journey for me,” he said. “I got to see the world. I got to meet people from all over the world and I found myself.

Cambridge’s journey to meet again began in a very different place. “When I joined the army, I enlisted as a woman,” he said. “I was an assigned woman at birth, so all of my military experience was as a woman. As a black woman working in the security forces, I was already a minority. It is a career field that is predominantly white and male. I was very calm and felt like I had to walk on eggshells.

As someone who describes themselves as outgoing and expressive, Cambridge has struggled to keep part of his life a secret.

“Scolded for just being who I was. “

“Serving in the military as a woman, I identified as a lesbian and served in the last few years of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” he said. “It was a difficult time for me because I didn’t have the right to be really myself. Unfortunately, I was investigated and reprimanded simply for being who I was.

Cambridge in the formation of the air force

While serving in the Air Force, Cambridge began to associate with a “more masculine energy” and eventually realized that he identified as transgender.

When Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was repealed in 2011, he knew it was going to change his life. “I will never forget that day,” he recalls. “I am so grateful that I was able to experience this during my active service. It was a breath of fresh air and relieved a lot of stress. However, identifying as transgender was another enduring struggle as well. I knew it was a good start, but we still had a long way to go.

During the six years that Cambridge served in the Air Force, he faced incredible adversity. “I suffered discrimination and military sexual trauma,” he added. “I lived in a lot of fear. It was extremely difficult. I have dealt with depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.

Conditions afflict the transgender community at a higher rate

“Unfortunately, many of these conditions afflict the transgender community at a higher rate than the general population of the United States,” said Dr. Micol Levi-Minzi, a Southern Virginia Nevada psychologist who works with many LGBTQ veterans. “Statistically, transgender people are nine times more likely to attempt suicide than other Americans.”

With violence, discrimination and self-harm affecting the transgender community at alarming rates, VA Southern Nevada recognizes the importance of Transgender Day of Remembrance. This annual celebration on November 20 honors the memory of transgender people whose lives have been lost in anti-transgender violence and those who lost their lives by suicide.

The Defense Department announced in March that transgender servicemen would once again be allowed to serve openly and receive gender-affirming procedures and care. According to Cambridge, this is a step in the right direction for acceptance.

“Thinking about Transgender Day of Remembrance, it is important to recognize how far we have come, but also the work that remains for us to do,” he said. “The statistics on the murder of transgender women are high. It’s even higher for transgender women of color.

According to Dr Levi-Minzi and Cambridge, one of the most important factors in a transgender person’s well-being is to have supportive friends or family. “My group of friends accepted me for who I was, and they were very diverse, from straight to gay to trans and everything,” Cambridge added. “We all need a support system. We all need a place or a group of friends who allow us to be ourselves. It can be the difference between life and death. Sometimes all you need is a friend or family member who will be around your corner and can support you through the process.

My father “always supported me”

For Cambridge, his biggest support was his father, who passed away in 2020. “He has always supported me and he was my support system. If I hadn’t had it, I don’t think I would be here today to share my story. He has always been such a strong source of optimism and positivity. I always know he is here with me and I always receive his advice and support.

Cambridge receives most of its care through VA Southern Nevada.

“Yoga is my first healthy addiction.”

Throughout her transformation, Cambridge still struggled with depression and anxiety and looked for something to help her heal mentally, physically and spiritually.

“When I was in treatment, they introduced me to yoga,” he said. “It was the first time that I felt truly connected to my mind, body and spirit. It became my first healthy addiction.

Cambridge knew that yoga would play a key role in the next phase of his life. He wanted to share this gift with others who needed advice. He spent several months in India, living in an ashram and learning the art from renowned yogis.

Using therapy to help others go their own way

Upon his return, Cambridge founded an organization called The Intentional Movement. “The movement is aimed at people in transition and who may be in transition with a gender identity or those leaving the military,” he added.

Through this organization, Cambridge perpetuates her father’s positive outlook by providing support and community to those in need. He does this using the same therapy and the same life lessons he learned to help others go their own way.

Cambridge believes the lessons he has learned can be applied to anyone. “We are all in a transition. It doesn’t matter if it’s a transition with your gender, your career or your life, ”he said. “What can we do to make this transition easier? Be kind to each other. Build a more united community. Maybe it’s just saying hello or smiling to someone… because you don’t know what that person may be going through.

This sense of community is one of the reasons Cambridge feels comfortable receiving care at VA. “VA has come a very long way in caring for transgender veterans,” he said.

Levi-Minzi believes that through simple gestures like recognizing and using pronouns, we respect and meet the needs of every veteran and employee, regardless of who they are.

“Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect,” said Levi-Minzi. “We all have to commit to it. We are proud to serve all who served.

here is More information about LGBTQ + services offered at VA.

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