About a month or two ago, I was doing some personal research to further educate myself on transgendered health care and the political/social/legal aspects of it's inclusion or discrimination through the states and elsewhere. Things were optimistically brightening as I moved from one state to one country and so on. Then, I realized that I'd (for whatever reason any psychologist might point out) neglected to look into that of the state in which I live, here in the US...Minnesota. I'll quote some of my research material here. It's from a paper titled "Healthcare Access for Trans People in Minnesota: Legal History and Policy Proposal"
written by Ilina Chaudhuri for the Legal Scholarship for Equal Justice, circa 2008. You can find the entirety of the proposal here.
There was a time between 1977, when Doe v. Department of Public Welfare was decided and 2004, that state funded insurance programs routinely covered the costs of a full range of trans related services, including hormone therapy, counseling, and gender reassignment surgeries. In 1995, an amendment was proposed to one of the medical assistance programs in Medicaid, the General Assistance Medical Care program that would exclude gender reassignment surgery as a benefit. This passed in 1998 with the language that SRS is not “medically necessary.
These restrictions were challenged in court and again, Minnesota courts were unwilling to withhold benefits from trans people and in Hare v. Department of Human Services, decided that the scope of gender reassignment services was broad and included more than hormones and surgery, extending substance abuse counseling and resources to the plaintiff.
Response to Minnesota judicial activity from the executive and legislative branches was quick to follow. On July 14, 2005, Governor Tim Pawlenty signed into law the omnibus health and human services bill that included provisions stating that for both the GAMC and MA programs, “sex reassignment surgery is not a covered service".
Now, I'm not an activist. I feel socially awkward anymore, haven't spoken publicly for decades, and honestly at age 40 have begun to truly understand why my father started avoiding the news in his later years. But this, this just struck me as odd. A state that had, unbeknownst to me, been at the forefront of progressive legislation and inclusive philosophy having taken that drastic a stumble with so much prior acceptance just felt like something had been allowed to persist like a hidden tumor.
I revile tumors. Thus, I had a strong reaction to such sudden understanding and decided that for the first time, I'd take a step (tiny though it is) to speak my passion. Our state governor's website offers the convenient spot to send communiques to both the Governor and Lt. Governor, so I did. I have to admit I expected nothing from it, a form letter regarding someone's appreciation of my "willingness to get involved" or something perhaps, but absolutely no more. About a month or so passes and it leaves my mind.
Me, jaded? Pish-posh.
So I wake today, the day at that point starting out on the scale of middling high-note I mention above and some 10 minutes in...the phone rings. Not a noteworthy thing in itself but the Caller ID read "MN STATE OFFICE". That got my attention, but I immediately assumed "donation drive" or something because, yes - I'm jaded, and I answer the call out of habit.
A woman on the other end asks for me by name. "Hello, I'm xxxxxxxxxxx (I know the name and all, but felt it impolite to include it without having asked prior), may I speak with Dana Higgins? . "Yes, this is she.", I reply. Then the genial woman begins to relate that she's calling in regard to my note...the one regarding Minnesota's historical progressive action and philosophy on the aforementioned issue and how it'd been laid to the side of the road for so long. That for too long, especially in today's blessed atmosphere of inclusive and progressive social evolution, this has remained a stain on this state's otherwise impressive record regarding such.
That, as a transwoman myself, I saw that it was time for Minnesota to retake it's place on the curve and to correct an egregious wrong. To strike from it's legislation the idea that transgender medical treatment, SRS or otherwise, could be though of as "not medically necessary" and or simply sidelined by referring to it officially as "not a covered service" in regards to the three public health insurance programs in Minnesota, those being Medical Assistance, General Assistance Medical Care and MinnesotaCare. Those that require public assistance should not be excluded from what is medically necessary (as verified by medical professionals, of course).
A huge number of states disagree with how Minnesota statutorily views this topic, with more coming up as time passes. Social Security disagrees. The professional medical establishment, in total, disagrees. I disagree. My loved ones disagree. I have to believe those I've lost would disagree. Other transgender individuals certainly disagree. I would hope any reading this would disagree. (Note that she didn't say all of this, but it felt the natural way to share the note-in-question's summation with you, the reader.)
So, she asked if I'd had any statements to add to the note I'd submitted, full of it's quoting of judicial, legislative, and philosophical/scientific revelation and I answered, "Wow, I haven't even had my caffeine yet." We both laughed.
I did recover somewhat, stating that it was meant as a general statement regarding what is now accepted as medically necessary treatment overall. SRS being an important, to many of us central, component of the treatment we do, medically, need...but not the focus overall (remembering that many trans* individuals do not seek or require such, as a given). It's one aspect of the issue I raised, but one that requires correction with regards to what small minds were allowed to do to one of the most progressive and forward thinking states in the union. I live here now. I could die tomorrow and the issue would still be calling to be righted. It's the sort of thing that should be on the table and in the news, not on the back shelf as it is, as of this writing.
She thanked me, said that she wanted to pass this on to the Governor and thanked me again for talking with her over it. I thanked her for her time and attention, feeling happy that it'd received any attention at all and we closed the call.
I hung up the phone in the charger and stepped out of the room to continue waking up.
Wait one mother-loving, daddy-hugging minute.
He's actually going to read it? It won't be part of a slush-pile on an assistants desk? It won't be lost in the juxtaposition of issues that the party or his own personal campaigns require before it gets to him? It has the opportunity to cause thought in a manner that may, eventually, lead to action instead of only more thought?
Did I just "activist"?