Anti-T policies forget the humanity in Transgender people
You wake up to the sound of your phone ringing. It’s your Mother calling. She tells you that from now on, you are no longer part of the family. Your name has been removed from every household memory. You are no longer enrolled in her insurance. She has called your school and work to let them know it’s okay to separate you from others. But, she says it’s ok because she still tolerates you and is launching a campaign for people to like you in other countries. “Happy birthday honey,” she says, before hanging up.
How would you feel?
That’s how transgender people feel every time the government releases a new “anti-transgender” policy.
While President Donald Trump made history by becoming the first Republican president to publicly acknowledge Pride Month, there have also been more than 37 attempted actions taken against the transgender community since his inauguration, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality.
Starting in 2017, the Trump administration removed mentions of LGBTQ people from the White House website. In May of this year, President Trump rolled back health care protections for the transgender community.
Meanwhile, organizations like the Human Rights Campaign, the National Center for Transgender Equality and GLAAD are trying to keep track of these policies and hold the president accountable. Real-life people are caught up in this situation and their lives severely impacted simply because they choose to live their identities in freedom.
Just like insert friend’s name would not be able to understand your feelings if your Mom gave you a call like that, it is hard for cisgender people to see how the transgender community is being affected by the current administration’s policies.
Let Eran Sargent, Dré Richard, Deja Alvarez, and Yoshiaki Yamasaki tell you the problems the transgender community faces here in Philadelphia.
“I feel like my identity is being denied. It’s kind of like a slap in the face, almost, for a lot of folks that I know and even for myself,” said Sargent.
“It kinda makes you wanna retreat and go back to holding things inside as opposed to being freer and expressing things. It makes you not wanna be so out there, because all of the criticism you can receive based on the current political climate,” she said.
Yoshiaki Yamasaki, director of Philadelphia’s AIDS Consortium, agreed. “People think being transgender is an option, but it is not,” he explained.
Since the Trump administration started changing the government’s transgender policies, Yamasaki says consultation sessions with transgender patients have gone from a little over 30 to 400.
Imagine going out of town and becoming so ill you need to go to the doctor. The provider asks if you are pregnant. You say no. The doctor insists. You explain why it is impossible for you to be expecting. Suddenly, the physician removes his hands from you, and whispers in the nurse’s ear. She then informs you that the doctor refuses to treat you.
This was Deja Alvarez’s experience.
Refusing treatment is not a new problem for the transgender community. The 2015 U.S Transgender Survey reported that 33% of those surveyed had been refused treatment, verbally harassed, physically or sexually assaulted, or had to teach the provider about transgender people in order to get appropriate care.
In 2016, it became illegal to refuse treatment under the Affordable Care Act. However, since March 2017, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) proposed that providers be allowed to refuse treatment to transgender patients based on religious or moral beliefs, without consequences.
In the last two years, the National Center for Transgender Equality has recorded over 10 actions regarding healthcare for transgender people. This makes Alvarez feel like the government is “giving permission on a national level for any medical health provider to refuse care.”
On May 2, 2019, the Department of Health and Human Services published a final rule allowing insurance companies to deny care to transgender patients. The rule was challenged in court.
Dré Richard did not know that health insurance for transgender people was in question. When reflecting on it, she goes back to the beginning of her transition, when she paid $200 a month out of pocket for hormone treatment. She says she was lucky to have her insurance cover it over time.
Yet, she can’t help but think about the people who are just starting their transition and would not be able to afford it without insurance.
It seems like we’re back in 2015, when the U.S Transgender Survey showed that 25% of respondents were denied coverage for care related to gender transition.
“As a transwoman dealing with homelessness, I was worried about finding something to eat, finding a safe place to lay my head. I shouldn’t have to worry about whether the place I’m waking into is gonna hate me, whether they are gonna allow me to be beaten up, discriminated against, stolen from, raped or even killed -and that could be by the staff or the other people staying at the shelter.”
- Deja Alvarez
The 2015 U.S Transgender Survey reported that 7 out of 10 transgender people who stayed in a shelter were harassed, sexually or physically assaulted, or simply kicked out.
Alvarez recalls a time when, if a transgender person needed to go into a shelter, he or she was expected to go to the facilities according to their birth-assigned gender. “It didn’t matter if you have breasts or anything, you still had to dress down and could not present as a woman in any way, shape or form,” she said.
In 2016, the Equal Access to Housing Final Rule passed. From then on, The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) programs were supposed to guarantee equal access without regard to “perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status.”
However, on May 22, 2019, HUD announced a plan to remove the discrimination prohibition against transgender people in HUD-funded homeless shelters.
In the last two years, HUD has announced policies to take down key information for emergency shelters serving transgender people. It has removed protections and withdrawn agency-proposed policies such as notice signs and a Youth Homelessness survey.
For Alvarez, the survey would have been useful to accurately know how many young transgender people are homeless, while the notice signs would have helped youngsters already in shelters feel safer.
M.S Yoshiaki Yamasaki wants you to know that these kinds of policies affect children even more than adults.
“They are developing their sense of belonging [...] You are shaking their ground. You are telling them none of that exists for you. That causes really serious problems and trauma,” said Yamasaki.
Eran Sargent thinks that anti-transgender policies can be scary “especially for the young teen who does not have a support system, who has not found people that are like them.”
Yoshiaki Yamasaki says we need to remember that LGBTQ communities have a high suicide rate. “That happens because, obviously, they feel like they don’t belong,” he explained.
“In those situations, it’s extremely sad, it’s extremely scary. Unfortunately, that is a reality. I think that is one of the implications and part of the impact of this presidency,” she added.
March 28, 2017, marked the day The Census Bureau decided against collecting LGBTQ people’s demographic information, for the 2020 Census.
“The Census, in the big scale of things, isn’t on our priority list anyway. Our priority list is survival. You know grateful that we were finally starting to get recognized and all of that, but honestly, we have so many things to worry about than that census.” said Deja Alvarez.
Eran Sargent and Dre Richard did not know about this.
“It’s almost as if we are trying to be systematically erased, or systematically silenced, when individually that's not the case. It can send a message from the top that we are not valued,” explained Sargent.
Richard’s demeanor changed with what she called ‘devastating news.’
“Wow, that’s upsetting! [...] That makes me feel like that [erasinginvisibilization] is their goal. It doesn't feel good [...] If they are gonna stop pulling numbers that are so important for, like, the medical community, it’s like they are saying we don't care if you are here or not,” added Richard.
“Speak up for us if you are around family and friends and coworkers that are saying stuff about trans people, just tell them ‘hey, actually that’s not true’. They are actually just like everyone else, they just want to work, go to school, and live their lives.”
The National Center for Transgender Equality offers a set of some tips on how to increase awareness and be an ally.
Some things you could apply to your daily life, according to the guide, is not making assumptions about a transgender person’s sexual orientation, acknowledging what pronouns they prefer, not giving backhanded compliments, listening, and knowing your own limits as an ally.
Another thing meant to help the transgender community is The Equality Act.
This bill would expand and strengthen public protections to prohibit discrimination based on sex, religion, race and disability.
Some federal laws already protect people from such forms of discrimination. However, the legislation first introduced in 2015, will fill in the gaps of civil rights laws.
On May 17, The U.S House of Representatives passed the bill. Now, it will move on to the Senate.