In what many have deemed a historic measure, the Internal Revenue Service announced this week that it would allow transgender taxpayers to deduct the cost of gender reassignment surgery from their taxes as a medical expense.
As Time is reporting, IRS officials announced its intent, via a "notice of acquiescence," to abide by a 2010 decision that held that some medical expenses from such surgeries could be deducted from income tax filings. The "acquiescence" also effectively ends an almost decade-long battle that Rhiannon O’Donnabhain, who was born male, waged against the IRS to deduct $5,000 in expenses she incurred to bring her anatomy in line with her gender identity.
The IRS had previously claimed O’Donnabhain's procedure was entirely cosmetic and, as such, not subject to a deduction. According to reports, the now 65-year-old O'Donnabhain said she brought the lawsuit in an attempt to force the IRS to treat sex-change surgeries the same as appendectomies, heart surgeries and other deductible medical procedures. "This goes way beyond money," O'Donnabhain said in a 2007 Associated Press interview. "If I were to give the money back, it would be saying it's OK for you to do this to me. It is not OK for them to do this to me or anyone like me."
Many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) advocates were quick to hail the IRS decision as a victory. "There is something to be said when a federal court recognizes general identity disorder as a serious medical condition,” says Karen Loewy, an attorney with Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, the non-profit that represented O'Donnabhain, in an interview, reports Time. Others were not so supportive; considering transgender surgery a medical expense puts "our court into culture wars in which tax lawyers have heretofore claimed non combatant status," writes judge Mark V. Holmes, according to Business Insider.