Three separate news reports on three separate subjects with one common theme: the exclusion of trans people.
“This is not who I am”
Southern Voice of Atlanta carries a distressing and disturbing article (link here) about Akasha Harding’s experience at the city’s Metro Atlanta Task Force for the
Homeless shelter (also known as the Task Force, or Peachtree-Pine). It’s the only known shelter in Atlanta that will accept trans clients, but at the same time it expects them to present as male in order to comply with city ordinances.
Ms Harding said when she checked into the shelter some eight weeks ago, she was told to hide her gender identity. In order to be able to stay at the Task Force, she must “present as male” according to the shelter’s policy.
“They told me as long as I covered up there would be no problem. Then other people who have homophobia or whatever problems – people who worked here [as resident volunteers] – said I couldn’t do this,” she said. “I was threatened to be put out if I continued to dress the way I wanted – like me, who I feel that I am.”
“They told me it’s in the policy this is a men’s shelter and I have to dress like a man. So I downplayed what I had on, but still wore my hair and makeup … now that I am a resident volunteer I can’t do it at all. I’m very uncomfortable. I don’t like this. This is not me, this is not who I am.” […] “I just hate I have to change it now to make someone else happy,” she said. “If they make a transgender policy I would follow it, to allow us to be comfortable as long as it’s not any way threatening the security of others.”
Cole Thaler, transgender rights attorney for Lambda Legal, believes that “People are confusing sex and gender expression” and has suggested changing the policy. Anita Beaty, executive director of the Task Force, said Thaler’s recommendation is “excellent” and added:
“We’re working on it,” she said of perhaps making the policy official. “The real issue is separating behavior and dress from gender choice.” […] “We’ve always included trans clients,” she added, “and we try hard not to be oppressive.”
Lest we forget: since 2000, Atlanta has operated a policy of prohibiting “discrimination based on race, color, creed, religion, sex, domestic relationship status, parental status, familial status, sexual orientation, national origin, gender identity, age, or disability.” Unless, of course, you happen to be a homeless trans person.
Michigan health insurance company withdraws coverage for surgery for trans people
Via the Michigan Messenger (links here and here), it seems that the Blue Cross Blue Shield health insurance company has received permission from state regulators to change insurance policies it offers, and the withdrawal of coverage for surgery for trans people was one of those approved changes.
According to Helen Stojic, a spokesperson for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan:
“We took a look at our product line and what other insurers were covering in other markets. […] Most don’t cover this type of surgery. So we aligned our products.”
Ms Stojic added that BCBS – which is mandated by state law to offer coverage to those other insurers will not cover – reduced the cap for maternity coverage in the new alignment as well. The changes impact only single payer plans. The company posted a $133 million loss in the single payer plans last year, but hasn’t said how much of that was a result of trans people undergoing surgery.
“We certainly understand that people who are particularly interested in [trans health matters] may not be happy with [coverage elimination],” Ms Stojic said. “We have to compete in the market.”
Clearly, BCBS has forgotten that:
Gender reassignment surgery is often used to treat gender dysphoria, the medical diagnosis given to transgender persons. The surgery is considered medically necessary by advocates and the American Medical Association (direct link to PDF).
Trans inclusion at the University of Victoria
An interesting twist on a tired old story in The Martlet, “the University of Victoria’s independent newspaper” (link here).
The question of the exclusion of trans people from so-called women-only spaces has a long and dishonourable history, particularly with regard to trans women. So, on the one hand, it’s encouraging to learn of a Women’s Centre which operates as a space for “all self-identified women” and as a result, includes trans women by default. On the other hand, it excludes trans men, and this is currently a subject of some debate.
Sinead Charbonneau, communications and outreach co-ordinator at the UVic Students’ Society Women’s Centre says:
“To speak about trans inclusion, we must also foreground anti-racism, anti-colonialism and many other frameworks. […] The coming together of all of these subjectivities can be ominous and seemingly insurmountable, but it’s not impossible.”
Although Ms Charbonneau feels that a move toward a trans-inclusive space would be a positive change for, she emphasises the importance of trans-inclusion not marginalizing the experiences of the women who use the space.
“The Women’s Centre, as a space for all self-identified women – which includes trans-women – appears to many as a site of female essentialism. Faced with this criticism [that the center should be more inclusive], I revisit the initial reasons women-only spaces were established and … thus the political, social and cultural role of women-only space remains relevant.”
There has been much discussion on campus since one of the Centre’s board reps, Mik Turje, stopped identifying as a woman and resigned. Mr Turje’s transition was not kept secret from the Centre, but he said it reached a point where he no longer felt welcome in the space.
“Being forced into the category of ‘woman’ has been a contentious issue for me for so long,” Turje said. “Why should I have to pretend to be something I’m not, just so I can do the kind of advocacy work I want to do?”
Some campus members have discussed creating a trans advocacy group, but a counter-argument holds that creating a separate space for trans people would only create further divisions.
“It’s problematic to talk about a trans-advocacy group, as opposed to the Women’s Centre, because we’re still locking ourselves into gender barriers,” Turje said. “The problem, as I see it, is not so much women being oppressed, as gender oppressing all of us. We need a centre that questions categories. We need to stop splitting each other into smaller and smaller pieces.”
(Cross-posted at Questioning Transphobia)