Robina Asti is 92 years old and has been recognized by the government as a woman for over 30 years. She transitioned in 1976. She is a commercial pilot and the FAA has recognized her as a woman ever since they awarded her a license. She has made a living teaching people how to fly airplanes. The government issued her a passport designating her to be a woman. Her Social Security account labels her a woman.
Robina is a WWII veteran, having served as a Navy pilot. She is currently locked in a battle with the Social Security Administration…which she is losing.
In 2004 Robina married Norwood Patton in Hanger A of Orange County Airport in New York. Norwood new she was a transsexual woman, but he didn’t care. Oh, he was upset at first, but he got over it in a week. He asked her to get married every month for a lot of years.
Norwood died in 2012 at the age of 97. So Robina asked the Social Security Administration for survivors benefits. After almost a year of review, she was denied.
[H]er marriage does not meet the requirements under Federal law for payment of Social Security widow’s benefits.
At the time of your marriage, you were not legally a woman.
The benefits would only increase her monthly check by $500, but that is not what she really cares about. It is the insult.
Lambda Legal filed an request to reconsider on her behalf six months ago. As yet there has been no response.
I am so insulted that the Social Security Administration refused to recognize me as a woman and treated my marriage to Norwood in such a disrespectful way. I have lived a very private life, but the SSA is forcing me to speak out. I don’t want other people to have to experience this.
Robina’s husband passed away over a year-and-a-half ago, and at 92 years old, she should not have to wait another day for the benefits to which she is entitled. The government has recognized Robina as a woman for over thirty years, including on her passport, FAA pilot’s license and her driver’s license. For the federal government to deny her survivor benefits now is inexplicable. This remarkable woman should not have had the grief of losing the love of her life compounded by the insult of having her gender and marriage disrespected.
—Dru Levasseur, director of Lambda’s Transgender Rights Project