April 1, 2013 | by Michael K. Lavers
Transgender health care rally in D.C. draws more than 100
rally for transgender equality and economic justice, gay news, Washington Blade

(Washington Blade photo by Tyler Grigsby)

More than 100 people attended a rally in Columbia Heights on Saturday in support of equal access to health care for transgender people.

“We are here today to advocate for trans competent health care providers and for health care for the transgender community,” organizer Bryce Jordan Celotto said.

Nico Quintana, who came out as trans when he was 19, binded his chest for 10 years because his health insurance providers did not cover transition-related care.

He received a double mastectomy at an out-patient facility last year after saving more than $7,000, but developed an infection in his chest after the surgery. Quintana was hospitalized three times — and he said the personnel who admitted him to the hospital asked whether he was a man or a woman before they processed him.

“No one should have to think about that when they’re dying,” he said.

A 2011 study from the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force noted 28 percent of respondents said they experienced harassment while in a doctor’s office or another health care setting. Forty-eight percent of respondents postponed medical care because they could not afford it.

Nearly a fifth of survey participants said a doctor or other health care provider refused to treat them because of their gender identity and expression. The study notes this figure is higher among trans people of color.

“It’s a sad state of affairs when the number one prerequisite for a good health care [provider] is that they’re nice,” Thomas Coughlin of Whitman-Walker Health said. He noted clients drive up to six hours to access trans-specific care at his agency. “One of our goals is to educate people about trans care and trans-sensitive health.”

Andy Bowen of the D.C. Trans Coalition and others who spoke at the rally applauded the D.C. government’s efforts to address health care and employment disparities among trans Washingtonians.

Then-Mayor Anthony Williams in 2005 signed a bill that added gender identity and expression to the D.C. Human Rights Law. The Metropolitan Police Department and the D.C. Department of Corrections have also released trans sensitivity guidelines.

More than 70 people have graduated from the Project Empowerment program the D.C. Department of Employment Services launched in 2011 as a way to help reduce unemployment and poverty rates among trans Washingtonians. The city’s insurance regulator last month also clarified existing regulations to say health insurance providers cannot discriminate against their trans policy holders.

Mayor Vincent Gray and other D.C. officials last September unveiled the country’s first publicly-funded campaign to combat anti-trans discrimination, but advocates stressed they need to do more to improve access to health care and reduce economic disparities among trans Washingtonians.

Tyra Hunter died from injuries she sustained during a 1995 car accident after emergency medical personnel who responded to the scene declined to treat her once they discovered she was trans. D.C. Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe last fall apologized to Hunter’s family on behalf of the department during a Transgender Day of Remembrance commemoration at the Metropolitan Community Church in Northwest Washington.

Bowen urged D.C. Medicare, Alliance and other publicly-funded health plans to cover trans-specific health care needs, such as hormones, and procedures.

The JaParker Deoni Jones Birth Certificate Equality Amendment Act of 2013, which is named for the trans woman whom Gary Niles Montgomery allegedly stabbed to death at a Northeast D.C. bus stop in Feb. 2012, would allow Washingtonians to legally change the gender on their birth certificates without sex-reassignment surgery.

The D.C. Council has scheduled a May 16 hearing on the proposal, but Casa Ruby CEO Ruby Corado said during the rally that the city needs to enforce existing laws designed to protect trans Washingtonians from discrimination.

“People have rights here,” she said. “We have human rights for everybody. There is equality.”

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

3 Comments
  • Thamra Leslie Crawford

    Wanting to correct my gender since I was a small child and seeking help to correct it through Dr. John Money and Johns Hopkins back in the early 70's that was denied because of stupid restrictions back then. I have seen many changes and many I don't like or agree with. The so called Transgender community is made up of what kind or variations of people is the question, and how or why does every kind or variation fit in with the needs of those who really need it. The question becomes does all kinds or variations of people within this so called transgender community really need what is being asked to have as changing ones name and gender or the surgeries needed to correct ones gender? In my opinion it has done nothing but hold back those who really need the healthcare rights and rights and equality in general. I'm a 65 Transsexual/Intersex person that had two Gay brothers so I do know something about all of this. I guess one day all this will get worked out but a lot longer than if it was done right in the first place. have a nice day!

  • Thamra Leslie Crawford

    Wanting to correct my gender since I was a small child and seeking help to correct it through Dr. John Money and Johns Hopkins back in the early 70's that was denied because of stupid restrictions back then. I have seen many changes and many I don't like or agree with. The so called Transgender community is made up of what kind or variations of people is the question, and how or why does every kind or variation fit in with the needs of those who really need it. The question becomes does all kinds or variations of people within this so called transgender community really need what is being asked to have as changing ones name and gender or the surgeries needed to correct ones gender? In my opinion it has done nothing but hold back those who really need the healthcare rights and rights and equality in general. I'm a 65 Transsexual/Intersex person that had two Gay brothers so I do know something about all of this. I guess one day all this will get worked out but a lot longer than if it was done right in the first place. have a nice day!

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