Transgender Individuals and Healthcare Policies
By: Alicia Mathew, Contributing Writer
Edited by: Fatou Yeli Kourouma, Editor; Eve Nevelos, Editor in Chief
Currently, there is a multitude of issues in regards to health management for transgender individuals in the United States. Policies are changing, so staying up to date on the information regarding this topic is vital to understand how the healthcare system treats members of the LGBTQIAA+ community, specifically, people who are transgender.
To understand the current situation regarding transgender rights in healthcare, one must first understand what the term “transgender” means. A transgender person is a person whose sense of gender and identity is not equivalent to the sex they were assigned at birth. These individuals have been heavily discriminated against in the past, however, there are laws in place to protect their rights in health management.
According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, “federal and state law prohibits most public and private health plans from discriminating against you because you are transgender.” By law, people who are transgender cannot be discriminated against. However, there are situations that serve as exceptions to these laws. Infractions such as insurance companies denying gender-based care, refusing to provide insurance plans because of a person’s transgender status, and denying transition-based care, among other things, are illegal. Regardless of what gender they identify with, people who are transgender have the federal right to be protected in matters pertaining to healthcare and healthcare policy, including insurance, primary care, and other forms of basic medical management. As previously mentioned, some can argue for exceptions to this rule, as some states in the United States recently did. These arguments led to laws and bills that threatened the prohibition of care for transgender individuals, specifically, transgender youth.
In Arkansas, a recent bill banning the usage of gender-affirming care for youth was recently approved by both the House and the Senate. According to the National Public Radio, this bill was vetoed by the governor of Arkansas, who stated that "new standards of legislative interference with physicians and parents as they deal with some of the most complex and sensitive matters involving young people.” This bill aimed to restrict transgender youth from receiving gender-affirming care on the grounds that they were not old enough to make their own decisions, and that elective medical procedures should not be performed on them at that age. Contrarily, the World Professional Association for Transgender health affirms that gender-affirming procedures are medically necessary for transgender individuals.
Multiple states have attempted to ban gender-affirming care for transgender youth, however, the protections that transgender people have according to the law restrict states from banning care.
Regardless of the current laws which protect the rights of those who identify as transgender, discrimination continues to fester in the current society. According to the National LGBTQ Task Force, “nearly 1 in 5 (19 percent) reported being refused care outright because they were transgender or gender non-conforming.” Transgender individuals are unable to find proper medical care for their ailments, and, therefore, are frequently being refused care on the grounds of their gender. Additionally, healthcare professionals do not have the proper training to care for transgender individuals and members of the LGBTQIAA+ community, which partially contributes to the unavailability of proper medical care for those who identify as transgender.
Policies regarding training healthcare professionals on caring for patients who identify as transgender are still in the works. People who are transgender frequently report that doctors exacerbate the trauma they are trying to reduce when working with people who are transgender. This is because of the lack of programs for healthcare professionals to learn more about caring for members of the LGBTQIAA+ community.
Although transgender individuals continue to be discriminated against in healthcare, the federal laws protecting their rights provide hope for a more equitable future. Healthcare is a human right that should be protected for all individuals, including those who are a part of the LGBTQIAA+ community.