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Friday, April 5, 2013

Transgender Rights: Where Are We Now?

Coy Mathis, right, walks out of her bedroom, at her home in Fountain, Colo., Monday Feb. 25, 2013.  Coy has been diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder. Biologically, Coy, 6, is a boy, but to his parents, three sisters and brother, family members and the world, Coy is a transgender girl.  (AP/Brennan Linsley)

Coy Mathis, right, walks out of her bedroom, at her home in Fountain, Colo., Monday Feb. 25, 2013. Coy has been diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder. Biologically, Coy, 6, is a boy, but to her parents, three sisters and brother, family members and the world, Coy is a transgender girl. (AP/Brennan Linsley)

A month ago, an Emerson fraternity crowd-sourced the money for a gender reassignment surgery for their transgender frat brother. His insurance – which had initially denied the surgery – subsequently clarified its position and covered the procedure.

This week, the Arizona state legislature has proceeded with a bill that would roll back a Phoenix city council anti-discrimination measure that included lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

The Arizona state bill shields businesses that require transgender people to use facilities like bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their birth sex, not the gender they now identify with.

This got us thinking, how far are we now and how much farther do we have to go to, for transgender rights?

‘A Sea Change’ In Public Awareness

Masen Davis is the executive director of the Transgender Law Center, says the last 15 years have seen a “sea change” in how the average American thinks about transgender people.

“Its been really pretty spectacular to see that people are incredibly and increasingly accepting of people who’s gender identity, the way they are inside, may not match the gender they were assigned at birth.

Davis says when he came out as a transgender man in 1998, there was very little of awareness of transgender people. Today, stories like that of six-year-old Coy Mathis are receiving national attention.

“We had very few laws protecting us from discrimination and harassment,” says Davis. “And very few parents knew that being transgender was possible, much less actively supporting their children going to school or accessing health care.”

Health Care Limitations

Though Aetna eventually agreed to cover the sexual reassignment surgery for Donnie Collins, the Emerson Fraternity brother who’s friends successfully fund-raised for his surgery,  Davis says that most health insurers continue to deny re-assignment surgeries for transgender people.

“Now the intent of those exclusions were to deny people access to transition related care — the specific medical care to fully be ourselves in the world,” says Davis.

But Davis says that these health restrictions can go beyond reassignment surgery and can restrict transgender people from even basic care. Davis recalls a transgender friend who had a stress fracture in his leg.

“The insurance company argued because this testosterone for years, some how this testosterone had weakened his bones and was at fault for the stress fracture.”

Davis says his friend was able to appeal that ruling, and get the medical care for his leg. And Davis says in general, more and more health care companies are taking these exclusionary measures out of their policies. He points to colleges as a leading force on this front – as students push for greater health coverage.


  • Masen Davis, Executive Director of the Transgender Law Center

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  • http://twitter.com/JohnnyFroggg J Frog

     “Don’t ask Don’t tell” was repealed for LGB but not for Transgender, cross dressing and other sexual deviations from the median.  Why no outcry from the Left?

  • Jake

    Sorry, but this is elective surgery. Just as tax dollars should not pay for breast augmentation, they should not pay for transitioning genders.

    • Vatelle

      Being stuck in a body that you don’t feel right in? In a body with parts that don’t belong to you? Imagine you suddenly turned into a female tomorrow and you can’t stop it. You begin your menstrual cycles, your mood goes out of whack, your body kills you for days on end, your stomach bloats up, your boobs hurt, you can’t sit up because it just hurts too much to do even that. All you can do is curl up in pain until, hopefully your painkillers kick in. And you have to go through his, every month for the next 20-40 years of your life like this. For the next 2400-4800 more months. Not only that, the clothes you feel comfortable in? Oh, you can’t wear them. Those breasts are in the way, those curvy hips? Nope. Oh and forget about walking around on a hot summer’s day shirtless because that counts as nudity in most places. You have to wear a shirt or sorts. Oh don’t even think about wearing a bra. You need to hide those puppies because you’re not really a woman are you? No, those boobs aren’t right. They bounce, they weigh you down, they make you weak. You can’t wear button up shirts because your buttons always come undone.

      You feel uncomfortable, you feel like you don’t belong. You don’t want to see those meddlesome breasts, you don’t want to feel that monthly pain. It. Isn’t. Who. You. Are. But, you’re stuck. You’re stuck in this body that isn’t yours because the expense is too high, because you can’t cover it on your own. You need a place to stay in, you need food on your table, you need heat, you need water, you need electricity. You can’t afford it. You can’t pay that much money. No because your insurance doesn’t cover your gender correction.

      • April

        “Imagine you suddenly turned into a female tomorrow and you can’t stop it.”

        Sorry happy thought :)

    • Angie

      When you spend years smoking and get cancer, or years binge eating and get diabetis, or even if you have a car accident and you end up even more harmed than you should for not wearing your seatbelt, or because you had a buzz or were texting on your cellphone… why should you be approved for medical coverage by your health insurance? After all, those are activities you elected to do out of your own irrationality, and now you are driving everyone else’s picy costs up, or stucking the tax payer though madicare or medicaide. If you are going to rationalize that transgender medical treatment is elective, then quit being a hipocrite and rationalize things accross the board, because otherwise you just sound ignorant and biased.

    • April

       I don’t know I’ve been paying taxes for years that go to schools and to help feed and cloth children who’s parents can’t make it on their own pretty sure have a kid isn’t a mandatory thing so why shouldn’t I be able to get some help too at least with the reassignment surgery



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