Flying Solo: This 92-Year-Old Transgender Widow Is Fighting To Be Treated Like Any Other Widow
After serving as a pilot during WWII, Robina Asti transitioned to living as a woman in the 1970s.
Now 92 years old, she fondly remembers spending time over the Pacific during World War II. She was only 21 at the time.
Getting her pilot’s license at just 18, Robina became a commercial pilot and flight instructor.
In 1976, she decided to begin living as a woman “in body, soul, and mind.” The prejudice against her at that time was extraordinary.
Working as a vice president of a mutual fund, she would go to work in men’s clothing and then change in the evenings.
“It was quite burdensome, and I knew it would never be accepted then. So I quit and decided I had to live and work as a woman.”
She legally changed the sex on her pilot’s license, her driver’s license, and obtained a U.S. passport as a woman. For Robina, it was a complete rebirth.
She soon met Norwood Patton, the man who would one day become her husband.
When things became serious, Robina knew she would have to tell Norwood about her transition.
Less than a week later, Norwood came back.
Every month, Norwood would ask for her hand in marriage. Every month, she would refuse.
Finally in 2004, Robina married her longtime sweetheart in a small ceremony in an airplane hangar in Orange County, N.Y.
“It was, without a doubt, the finest time in my life.”
Eight years later, Norwood passed away at the age of 97.
After his passing, Robina applied for survivor benefits with the SSA. She was denied after it was determined she was “legally male” at the time of their marriage — despite all the legal documents she had in her possession.
“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.”
In June 2013, Lambda Legal filed a request for reconsideration on Robina’s behalf. After more than six months, there is still no word from the Social Security Administration.
She hopes that her case is a success, not for the money, but for “the act of humanity which is necessary here.”
Lambda Legal created this video to share Robina’s story:
This is actually the first time in a very long time that I can recall seeing anything about and elderly trans person. I feel sad and ashamed of myself for not having giving much consideration to the intersection of ageism and transphobia—particularly how a senior citizen might face transphobia.