Sunday, July 15, 2007

Good (but not great) news for trans people

Jamie Tyroler has a great column up at CAMP situating the AMA's newly minted non-discrimination policy within debates over transgender equality and universal healthcare. Medical discrimination is an issue that transgender people have struggled with for too long, and in a way that no other group in the United States has. Tyroler's article relates a disturbing and personal example:

A few years ago, a transgender friend of mine tried committing suicide by swallowing a large amount of over-the-counter medication. She walked to a local emergency room where the doctor on duty ordered her to leave and not to return. The doctor told her that this hospital would never treat someone like her. Fortunately, she survived her suicide attempt. Unfortunately though, walking home in a very fragile state, she was raped.

A post at MySoCalledGayLife reminds us of another tragedy:

In 1999, Robert Eads, a female-to-male transsexual, died of ovarian cancer after multiple doctors refused to treat him. His case was documented in the 2001 documentary, Southern Comfort.

All around the country, people have been dying simply because the ethical commitment that doctors have made to respond to those in need seems to be outweighed by their irrepressible disgust for those who do not, and indeed, can not, live within the confines of the binary equation of sex and gender. This is not an issue that requires a PhD in Gender Studies to grasp. There is little that deconstruction can offer in comprehending the great pain and misery that medical discrimination deals. It is an issue as simple as whether or not we will heal the sick and tend to the suffering, regardless of how they relate to the loaded vocabularies of "man" and "woman".

Thankfully, the AMA gets it right. In fact, they nail it. From employment, to insurance, to treatment, the AMA will now forbid discrimination based on gender identity. Many trans people who have labored to find help from our nation's doctors will rest easier with the burden of medical discrimination lifted from them.

But there is still much to be done on the front of transgender health. Transgender cultural competency needs to be a priority in medical training. No one should have to feel like alien or unsafe when they go to visit the doctor. Insurance providers should research the actual (not hypothetical, stereotypical, or downright mythological) costs and benefits of sexual reassignment so that their trans clients can receive fair quotes - rather than being unfairly gouged, or as is usually the case, completely denied coverage. Surveys and studies need to identify trans subjects so that a profile of the health needs of the trans community can emerge. If we do not effectively and preemptively concern ourselves with the health needs of American minority populations and prioritize a strong response to disparities in health care and research, then we will continue to watch each underserved population die in unnecessarily high numbers. It doesn't seem like a hard choice.

But the Christian right is ful of surprises. Led by Tom Coburn and the AFA, they're already lining up against such efforts. They would rather see tax cuts than an increase of spending for the CDC. And they are especially incensed that the CDC has made strides to include trans people, MSM, WSW, sex workers and drug users into the fold of people whose health will be addressed. Forget that we know little about most of these groups except for the simple fact that they appear to be at elevated risks for a variety of illnesses. Apparently, the price of deviance is not only shame, but marginalization, destitution, sickness and death. The AFA even offers a direct action meme, which lures in fundies with the "outrageous" claim that the CDC has used their money for an event focusing on trans people! The horrors!

And so now, the bizarre alliance between "family values" voters and free market capitalists has one of the largest Christian organizations lobbying the President to spend less on health care. The followers of a Christ who not only healed lepers and the blind, but counseled and comforted prostitutes, criminals and adulterers, cannot bear the idea of spending their money to assist the ill and at-risk who must exist on the fringes of the social mainstream because of absurd norms of propriety and sexual conservativism. Irony does not do the situation justice. It is merely a disgrace.

1 comment:

Leah said...

Matt, your articles are fantastic. I'm enjoying.