FRANSEN: Health coverage for transgender people a necessity

elena fransenThere have long been discriminatory exclusions in health insurance policies directed at transgender people in the United States. Many individuals diagnosed with the medical condition gender dysphoria, otherwise known as gender identity disorder, go untreated without desired medication or surgeries.

Overcoming this barrier is a slow process and a focal point for advocacy organizations across the country. The latest advancement for equality took place Thursday when Washington D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray clarified treatment for transgender residents, like everyday hormone therapy and gender-reassignment surgery, would be covered by Medicaid and private insurance providers.

Medicaid is a social health care program funded by individual states and the federal government that serves low-income individuals. D.C. joins states such as California and Minnesota in granting full coverage of treatment to those with gender dysphoria. The medical diagnosis should be adequately treated with serious concern and with informed medical institutions.

Gray’s statement is a positive step forward for the LGBTQ community as it was recognized on the national level. Campaigns in other states like New York continue to seek coverage without discrimination, but the Medicaid coverage of transgender individuals is deemed unnecessary by those who claim the bill shouldn’t fall on taxpayers.

Those who are against full recognition of health care coverage for transgender individuals could see this development as a strike against Medicaid. Many people continue to disagree with the diagnosis of gender dysphoria as a medical condition in need of treatment.

I think this opinion is based misunderstanding of the complexities associated with transgender and gender non-conforming people.

While hormone treatments and gender-reassignment surgery are misconstrued as cosmetic enhancements, these treatments are necessary to the everyday lives of transgender people.

Treatment for gender dysphoria is often generalized as akin to fertility shots and plastic surgery as it also has a great expense. But the similiarity stops there. Gender-reassignment surgery and associated treatments should not be dealt with in the same way because the effect of gender has on identity is downplayed.

Each of us  is inherently tied to how we classify ourselves as people within categories such as gender. Not identifying with one’s gender is often coextensive with not identifying with one’s self, which can prove mentally and physically detrimental to many within the transgender community. Attaining treatment is an important step to the health of these individuals.

Gaining a better understanding of gender dysphoria is more beneficial to society than rejecting the changes being made in insurance coverage of transgender treatments. There is  the likelihood of backlash against federal and state funded coverage of transgender treatment, but I think this can be overcome.

The issue of government-funded and privately supported insurance for transgender treatment will not disappear but continue to gain ground as advocacy groups urge more states to make statements like Gray’s. Recognition of transgender individuals and the medical conditions they face will fuel better understanding of why full coverage is necessary. It is imperative for the health of every individual within our society to be considered, instead of disregarded.

  • Joseph Clark

    Alumnus (class of 2010) here. I am very glad to see my alma mater’s student paper giving attention to the difficulties trans people have in accessing healthcare; Fransen deserves applause for approaching the issue with seriousness and compassion. However, I wish that she had mentioned that “gender dysphoria” (a phrase introduced in the first paragraph) is a hotly contested concept within trans communities. Below is a link to a short overview of the dispute.
    http://transunity.com/gender-identity-disorder-controversy