2014-MAY-30: USA: HHS changes its rules concerning Medicare funding of sex-reassignment surgery:
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) had historically excluded Medicare funding for sex-reassignment surgery on transsexual persons.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), and attorney Mary Lou Boelcke filed a joint administrative challenge with the HHS on behalf of Denee Mallon. She is a MTF trangender individual who had been diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder (GID). (That term is now obsolete and has been replaced with "Gender Dysphoria.") Although her physicians recommended sex reassignment surgery, she was denied Medicare funding for it.
The ACLU reports that HHS' internal Departmental Appeals Board has now ruled that automatic denial of funding is unreasonable and contrary to contemporary science and medical standards of care.
The ACLU, GLAD, and NCLR issued a joint statement in support of the decision:
"This decision removes a threshold barrier to coverage for medical care for transgender people under Medicare. It is consistent with the consensus of the medical and scientific community that access to gender transition-related care is medically necessary for many people with gender dysphoria. The removal of the exclusion of coverage for surgical care for Medicare recipients means that individuals will not automatically have claims of coverage for gender transition-related surgeries denied. They should either get coverage or, at a minimum, receive an individualized review of the medical need for the specific procedure they seek, just like anyone seeking coverage for any other medical treatment." 1
Response from Culture News, a conservative Christian advocacy group arrived four days later. They commented:
"President Obama's Department of Health and Human Services, headed by the godmother of ObamaCare, Kathleen Sebelius, has decided that all Americans should be forced to pay for sexual mutilation surgery of elderly patients suffering from gender confusion. Prior to the president's implementation of the Gay Agenda, such Medicare coverage was denied because sex change surgery was ruled "experimental and unsafe." 2
And, yes, both the joint statement and the comment by Culture News are discussing the same event, but are approaching it from two very different worldviews.
The writers at Culture News may not be aware of the fact that the decision to consider funding of sex-reassignment surgery was made by an independent board that is separate from the control of the politically appointed HHS management.
2014-JUN-04: MA: Protests of Smith College's exclusionary admission policies towards transgender women:
Members of the Smith Q&A (Queers and Allies) group -- a student-run consensus-based organization dedicated to justice for trans women -- joined with other Smith College students to hold a protest on their campus at Northampton, MA.
Sarah Fraas, who organized the protest, said:
"After several talks with administrators, they still have not accepted our central demand of a gender supplement compromise so that Office of Admission materials do not have to have all female gender markers. ... They have, however, made a couple great changes. [The] Office of Disability and Office of Financial Aid materials no longer have to have all female gender markers."
Lauren Walleser of The Rainbow Times wrote:
"Students and activists are still fighting for other admissions documents, including transcripts, letters of recommendation, the Common App., a guidance counselor recommendation, and mid-year academic reports, to not have to include female gender markers. Smith Q&A suggests that the Office of Admission change their policy to allow a supplement, so that if admissions materials have a 'male' gender marker, Smith can request 'two letters of support from health providers, school administrators, teachers, guidance counselors, social workers, advisors, clergy, family, employers, etc'."
The protest group is circulating a flyer saying:
"Smith Admissions has always been concerned that someone might assert they’re a woman for the wrong reasons. This [procedure] eliminates that risk as it would be hard to imagine two trusted adults being ‘in’ on such a scheme. Although we know that not every single trans girl will have two adults willing to affirm her identity, it’s certainly a start.
Less than half of trans high school students are able to change documents like their transcripts, and that is readily accessible information,. In practice, Smith’s policy excludes most women without a supportive school and family, which in reality is most trans women, and perhaps the trans women who need to come to Smith the most."
Genny Beemyn, director of the Stonewall Center at the University of Massachusetts - Amherst, said:
"Smith officials are not doing enough to enable trans female students to be able to attend the college. There is no reason that all of a student’s documents have to indicate that they are female. I have spoken to leaders in the Department of Education about this, and it is not an issue for them if MTF [male to female] students attend a women’s college. Smith could enable a MTF student to include a statement with their application confirming their female gender identity. This would not be too onerous on their Admissions people, but be a tremendous benefit to trans women." 3
2014-JUN-06: IN: The 20th anniversary of a landmark transgender victory:
On 1994-JUN-04, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its unanimous decision in Farmer v. Brennan. This case involved Dee Farmer, a black, transgender woman, who had sued prison officials for the:
"mental anguish, psychological damage, humil[i]ation, swollen face, cuts and bruises to her mouth and lips and a cut on her back, as well as some bleeding."
These injuries arose from having been raped in her prison cell in the Terre Haute, IN maximum security federal prison. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that she could seek damages from the prison officials.
Chase Strangio, writing for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), said:
"Tens of thousands of subsequent court decisions have cited Dee's case and the legal standard it established.
Nine years later in 2003, Congress passed, and President George W. Bush signed, the Prison Rape Elimination Act, referencing Farmer v. Brennan in congressional findings about the epidemic of sexual violence in prison. And nine years after that, the Department of Justice disseminated (at long last) regulations implementing PREA in May of 2012. These regulations include key protections for transgender people who are so often subjected to abusive searches for the sole purpose of "observing" their genitals and prolonged (sometimes for decades) isolation for 'protection'." 4
This topic continues in the next essay with news of interest to the
transgender/transsexual community later in 2014 and in 2015.
The following information sources
were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
"ACLU Statement on Final Ruling Invalidating Medicare Ban on Healthcare for Transgender Patients," American Civil Liberties Union, 2014-MAY-30, at: https://www.aclu.org/