Work & Purpose

95-Year-Old Fights for Rights of Fellow Trans People

After being denied Social Security widow benefits, she became an activist

Kaelyn Forde, executive editor for the website Refinery 29, recently interviewed a woman with a truly remarkable story.

Robina Asti was born in 1921 and grew up in New York City, joined the navy in WWII and served in the Pacific, got married, had three children and was the vice president of a major mutual fund. Then, in 1976, Asti transitioned from male to female.

I knew at my age, that there are a lot of people living on Social Security who need it.

— Robina Asti

Up until the ’70s, Asti told Forde, she was a male through and through in her mind. But after her son died in a snowmobile accident at the age of eight, she realized something wasn’t right.

“There was this tremendous urge to change — what, I didn’t know. And then, I don’t know by what means, I came to the fact that I had to change my sex,” Asti said to Forde.

She made the change and started a new life with the support of her wife, Eva. Asti fell in love and eventually married a man named Norwood Patton in 2004, but was denied Social Security widow benefits when he died in 2012 because Social Security claimed she was not a woman at the time of her marriage.

These days, Asti volunteers and advocates for transgender rights with the LGBT-advocacy nonprofit organization Lambda Legal. After her own experience, she decided she had to act on behalf of others.

“I was thinking that there must be other people like me, and I was fortunate that I was not needing the money, I didn’t need it to live. But I knew at my age, that there are a lot of people living on Social Security who need it. Suppose one of them was denied their Social Security, that is catastrophic,” Asti said to Forde. So she searched out Lambda Legal, who eventually won her case against Social Security.

Read the article here and watch the video below.

Code Embed: No embed code was found for CODE17

By Amy Knapp
Amy was formerly the associate digital editor for Next Avenue. She previously was an editor for InnoVision Health Media's consumer publicationNatural Solutions Magazine.  

Next Avenue brings you stories that are inspiring and change lives. We know that because we hear it from our readers every single day. One reader says,

"Every time I read a post, I feel like I'm able to take a single, clear lesson away from it, which is why I think it's so great."

Your generous donation will help us continue to bring you the information you care about. Every dollar donated allows us to remain a free and accessible public service. What story will you help make possible?