Trans health is important to all

By Hayley Devitt

More and more employers today are expanding company health insurance benefits to include services for transgender workers. Although the American Medical Association does recommend this, not all companies are on board yet.

“Transgender” is an adjective which applies to people who identify with a gender other than the one they were assigned at birth. The health care these individuals need specifically is an important but unfortunately overlooked issue.

In my experience, many cisgender people, or anyone who is not trans, typically respond to the transgender population with misunderstanding and confusion. However, I think the more attention it gets, and the more the cis population knows, the less foreign the subject will feel.

To gain more insight, I corresponded with Bethany Hill, founder and co-coordinator of the Transitions social group at NIU. She very eloquently outlined some of what people go through when transitioning from one gender identity to another.

According to her, transgender people benefit from three types of health services: doctor and therapist visits, prescriptions and surgeries. Hill said that “many transgender individuals seek therapy either for personal desire or because they are required to in order to proceed to transition medically.”

Doctors prescribe different hormone medications to change a person’s body to fit their target gender. These prescriptions are costly and are taken life-long. Patients also need follow-up visits after surgeries and time off work to make appointments with specialty doctors.

It sounds reasonable to me that these basic amenities should be covered in an employee’s insurance plan; all kinds of people need check-ups and prescriptions, so why shouldn’t the trans community be insured?

However, some employers are holding back because they fear the astronomical costs of gender reassignment procedures. Not everyone who transitions desires surgery, though. Some simply live as their desired gender, some only take hormones and others alter their bodies to whatever extent is necessary for them to feel like themselves. This can include facial and voice reconstruction as well as genital alteration.

Hill pointed out that while some think transgender employees don’t need medical procedures or treatments, going without them can seriously hurt an employee’s self-confidence and work quality.

“When a trans person desires to transition medically and is unable to because of financial reasons or otherwise, they experience dysphoria quite literally,” Hill said.

Feeling uncomfortable in one’s own skin can keep a person from being a good leader and living a productive life. By that token, getting these workers their treatments would be beneficial to everyone involved.

If nothing else, I think that therapy is the most important and should be covered by employee insurance. Can you imagine feeling like the body you live in is all wrong for you? And anyway, it is usually needed before any other treatments and procedures can be done.

I decided years back to support the LGBT community, and I’m thankful that in this day and age a growing number are doing the same. What the world needs to keep on this track is knowledge. With knowledge comes understanding.

I encourage our readers to be courteous and kind to trans men and women everywhere. Give them the respect of using the names they prefer and acknowledging the gender they identify with.