92-year-old Robina Asti, a World War II veteran and pilot, married her longtime sweetheart, Norwood Patton, in a ceremony held in an airplane hangar in New Jersey in 2004. When her husband passed away two years ago, Asti applied in person for survivor benefits through the Social Security Administration, but was denied. The reason given was that “her marriage does not meet the requirements under Federal law for payment of Social Security widow’s benefits,” due to Asti being “legally male” at the time of their wedding.
Last summer Lambda Legal, which fights for the rights of LGBT people, filed a request for reconsideration on Asti’s behalf and more than six months, she has still received no word from the SSA. Lambda filmed the video above to help draw awareness to the case. In it, Asti looks back her remarkable life and decision to transition in 1976.
“Once I made the change I became a woman in body and soul and mind,” she remembers, before adding that the prejudice against her changing “was extraordinary.”
Asti is, understandably, angry about her continued mistreatment. “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,” she states. Asti now wants to win the case, not just for the money owed her, but for “the act of humanity which is necessary here.”