On June 12, 2020, the four-year anniversary of the Pulse massacre, the Trump administration announced that the definition of “sex” within the Affordable Care Act would no longer extend to gender identity. The rule, set to go into effect in August, would mean that transgender people are no longer protected under federal law from healthcare discrimination.
America is no stranger to LGBTQ+ discrimination in healthcare, with the definition of sex legally extending to include trans people only happening in 2016. The danger of denied healthcare is all-too common, with 27% of transgender people reporting that they’ve been denied healthcare on the basis of their gender identity. Moreover, 30% of transgender people have outright postponed or avoided receiving needed medical care due to fear of discrimination.
Transgender people face unique health issues, from the increased risk of endometrial cancer (female-to-male) and prostate cancer (male-to-female) that comes with hormone therapy to the mental and physical care needed with transitional surgery. Repressing gender identity damages both mental and emotional health, and safely transitioning can resolve those problems and improve quality of life. The legal ability to deny transgender people healthcare can and will kill.
The above topics only encompass the transgender experience with healthcare on a day-to-day basis, ignoring the fact that the US is currently in the midst of a pandemic. As of June 24, the fatality rate in the US for COVID-19 is 5.2%. Denying access to healthcare for transgender people can and will kill, especially when taking into account the fact that 1 in 5 trans adults have a chronic health condition, increasing their susceptibility to the disease.
The new legislation is being challenged, with the Human Rights Campaign announcing they are suing the Trump Administration the very day the rule was publicized. Furthermore, the Supreme Court case Bostock v. Clayton County recently established that “sex” extends to sexual orientation or gender identity when it comes to discrimination in the workplace. The soon-to-be-current rule will only endanger trans life—not protect it—and has no place in a nation supposed to be built on equality for all.
In the face of this national discrimination, there are still things that can be done to support trans people. Learn how to be a proper ally, reach out to your trans people, support your local LGBTQ+ centers and organizations. Do what you can to mold the world into a better place.
Amelia Foster, Teen Connect Youth Advisory Board Member