LGBTQ+ Clinics Fight for Transgender Patients: “Everyone Deserves Easy Access to Healthcare”

It’s been nearly a week since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that employers could no longer terminate their workers for identifying as LGBTQ+, but some in the healthcare industry are still worried that their transgender patients are being discriminated against.

The Trump Administration recently announced a new rule that would strip “sex discrimination” protections for transgender patients – and healthcare providers are fighting back. Transgender individuals already face many obstacles when seeking medical care. They are also murdered and assaulted much more often than cisgender patients.

If this new law holds up in court, providers will be able to deny or withhold care to transgender individuals. Find out how this ruling may affect your practice and patients.

Fighting for Transgender Patients

The Trump Administration has repealed some protections for LGBTQ+ individuals in recent years. The White House also put out a range of rules and regulations that define “sex discrimination” as relating to the gender the person was born with, not the gender with which they identify.

This new rule came from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights, and has to do with Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which says that it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of “race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability in certain health programs and activities.” It reverses the Obama-era rule that defined “sex” based on the person’s gender identity.

Is the Law on Their Side?

The Supreme Court ruling that protects LGBTQ+ workers doesn’t directly apply to the new rule regarding the sex a person was assigned at birth. However, many advocates in the community say that the high court has bolstered their movement. The court ruling is seen as a win and may help persuade justices going forward that “sex discrimination” should apply to the gender the person identifies with, and not the gender with which they were born.

Several organizations within the movement are suing the Trump Administration over the rule, including the Whitman-Walker Clinic and the Los Angeles LGBT Center, numerous LGBTQ+ physicians, provider associations and other similar organizations, including the TransLatin@ Coalition. They are being represented by Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund and Steptoe & Johnson.

Bambay Salcedo, president and CEO of the TransLatin@ Coalition, said the Trump rule gives healthcare providers “the green light” to discriminate. He goes on to say, “Everyone deserves easy access to health care, and health care that is respectful of who we are. This rule will hurt marginalized communities who already experience barriers to care.”

Getting Care as a Transgender Individual

As many plaintiffs in the case point out, discrimination against transgender individuals is often systemic within the healthcare industry. These patients may have a hard time just scheduling an appointment if their name and gender does not match their ID.

The patient may feel uncomfortable talking about their health and sexuality, or even undressing in front of the nurse or physician if they feel they are being discriminated against. Transgender individuals also may have complex healthcare needs that will otherwise go unnoticed. We are also still in the middle of a global pandemic, and many of these patients need medical care now more than ever.

Advocates point to a woman named Tyra Hunter who was in a car crash in the 1990s. She was taken to a local hospital, but the doctor stopped operating on her when he discovered she was transgender.

The nation is also in the middle of a pandemic of violence against transgender persons. According to the Human Rights Campaign, at least 26 individuals were either fatally shot or killed by other violent means in 2019 alone. Ninety-one percent were black, 81% were under the age of 30, and 68% lived in the south. These individuals are also subject to discrimination in housing, education, and employment, which can lead to a range of health concerns over time. Black trans women are even more likely to be assaulted or discriminated against.

This is not a new phenomenon. At least 22 transgender individuals are murdered each year in the U.S. Many cases also go unreported, which means the final figure could be much higher.

Hopefully, the Trump Administration will reverse course on this rule now that the Supreme Court has expanded the country’s understanding of “sex discrimination.” Transgender individuals should have access to affordable, quality care, just like everyone else.

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