SAN FRANCISCO -- City leaders made history last month with the announcement of a plan to expand Healthy SF coverage to transgender individuals. But while the decision was monumental, it did not mark the end of the battle for inclusive health care.
The fight will continue this March through the Transgender Month of Action, a campaign urging unions, labor councils and state federations to bargain for inclusive health benefits for transgender individuals. San Francisco is one of ten U.S. cities included in the event's nationwide launch.
Transgender Activism Month marks a partnership between several organizations including Pride at Work, Service Employees International Union Lavender Caucus, the National Center for Transgender Equality and the Transgender Law Center. Though these organizations fight for transgender rights year round, the directed, month-long kickoff is the first of its kind.
“We've never seen this kind on push on such a targeted issue,” Transgender Law Center Executive Director Masen Davis told The Huffington Post. “It’s time. We are at a time when we are preparing for a whole new health care system.”
The idea for Transgender Activism Month was born at last month’s National Gay and Lesbian Task Force conference in Atlanta. Transgender advocates saw a need for partnerships with labor unions.
"Progressives in the labor movement have been at the forefront of many of the major fights for LGBTQ equality; from the boycott of Coors in your neck of the woods, to advocating nationally around HIV, to bargaining domestic partnerships," SEIU Lavender Caucus Co-Chair Tony Fernandes told HuffPost in an email. "Working to remove the exclusions of trans people from medically necessary care is an extension of those fights."
The Lavender Caucus serves as the LGBT caucus of SEIU, a North American union for workers in health care, property services and public services sectors. "LGBTQ issues are labor issues and labor issues are LGBTQ issues," Fernandes wrote.
As part of the campaign, Pride at Work, an organization fighting for LGBTQ economic and social justice, will post a transgender health care toolkit to its web site. Content will include information covering everything from transgender vocabulary to union bargaining strategies. It is the first time these resources will be available on such a broad level.
“I think we are at a turning point,” Pride at Work Transgender Caucus Co-Chair Gabriel Haaland told HuffPost. “Going forward, there is a lot of possibility, and that is why it is important that we organize and [start a] dialogue with this toolkit.”
In 2009, 40 percent of a transgender and gender non-conforming sample group obtained employer-based insurance coverage, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality's survey. Sixty-two percent of the population at large has access to these plans.
“A transgender man had cervical cancer. The doctors refused treatment because he was transgender, and he died as a result of not getting treatment by doctors,” Haaland said. “It’s clearly discriminatory by the insurance company, and the doctors to refused to treat this man and the consequences were severe.”
Transgender Activism Month is working towards non-discriminatory health care policies, focusing on procedures deemed medically necessary by physicians, according to Haaland.
The Bay Area is undoubtedly a key site when it comes to transgender health care. In 2001, San Francisco became the first city to cover sexual reassignment surgery for transgender employees. In recent years, both Kaiser, a large insurance provider, and Google took steps towards achieving transgender equality in health care.
Davis is hopeful the launch of a Transgender Activism month will continue these efforts and rejuvenate the fight for non-discriminatory health care.
“Every decade, we move closer to equality for so many different communities,” Davis told the HuffPost. “It is my hope that this month of action will increase awareness of transgender health needs and the violence that is represented by these exclusions. It is my hope that we will see a resurgence in activism”
Transgender Activism Month kicks off March 12 at the LGBT Center.