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This Transgender Widow's Struggle for Benefits Will Touch Your Heart

A private person by nature, Robina Asti stepped into the limelight after her benefits were denied. Years later, her work helped change the Social Security Administration's policy toward transgender widows.

Flying Solo: A Transgender Widow Fights Discrimination from Lambda Legal on Vimeo.

It's sweet, it's surprising, and—best of all—it's a success story.

This short film tells the story of Robina Asti, a 92-year-old former pilot and transgender woman. After the death of her beloved husband Norwood Patton in 2012, Robina applied to the Social Security Administration for survivor benefits, but was denied because the SSA claimed she was "legally male" at the time of her marriage.

Here's what Asti had to say about the incident:

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.

The civil rights organization Lambda Legal took up Asti's case and filed a request for consideration to the SSA. They also made the inspiring film you see here. And, after six months of organizing, they got a win: Robina started receiving survivor's benefits back in February, and a few months later the administration changed its policies to make it easier for transgender spouses to collect benefits.


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