Op-Ed: Medical Needs Have No Gender

By Melissa Alexander

Many people are scared to go to the doctor, but for a transgender or gender non-conforming person, the scenario can be a nightmare. When I first started to transition in the 90s and early 2000s, Columbus, Ohio, my Primary Care Physician refused to prescribe hormones essential to this process and my well-being. This left me scrambling to find someone to administer the Hormone Replacement Therapy as well as my other medical needs. In a city of nearly two million people, I could find only three providers who would do so. This struggle to find Health Care Professionals willing to treat transgender patients has become commonplace in the community. A transgender woman in Indiana sat in an ER for hours and was laughed at by staff and ultimately refused treatment. A transgender man was bounced to no fewer than five physicians in order to find someone to treat his sinus infection. A friend of mine was denied emergency gallbladder surgery when the physician discovered she was transgender. It was almost like trained medical professionals were at a complete loss when conditions like a broken arm, a sinus infection or a gallbladder were attached to a trans body.

Then in 2008, Democrat Barack Obama was elected President and, under his initiative, the Affordable Care Act became law. Section 1557 of the Act precludes discrimination by Health Care Professionals and health insurers, premised on protected categories including sex. Based on court precedents, in 2016 the Department of Health and Human Services clarified in regulations that Section 1557 also protected trans people in seeking healthcare and insurance coverage, vastly improving their lives.. More physicians opened up to treatment in those years.

In 2016, this country “elected” Donald Trump President. His supporters orchestrated a lawsuit to strike down the 2016 regulations interpreting Section 1557.  Additionally, Trump launched massive attacks on the LGBTQ community including opposing the Equality Act, appointing ant-LGBTQ judges, filing Court briefs supporting discrimination and promulgating rules removing discrimination protections. He has used the trans community as a battering ram to arouse the support of his right-wing religious base. Trump barred transgender people from serving in the military and sought removal of transgender students from Title IX protections. In the last month, he has promulgated new rules from Health and Human Services Department which again permit Health Care Providers to discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Medical needs do not have a gender. People do. All people occasionally seek health care and all people deserve to be treated fairly, safely and with dignity when they do. The Trump administration has instead offered heartless cruelty.