Last week, the Trump administration continued its assault against transgender and non-binary citizens by eliminating anti-discrimination protections granted in the Affordable Care Act. This move opens the way for federally regulated insurance companies and health care providers to deny coverage and services to transgender and non-binary people. The rule, which goes into effect in mid-August, could negatively impact roughly 1.5 million Americans. The Human Rights Campaign, ACLU and Lamba Legal have all vowed to fight the ruling.
Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of “race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability in certain health programs or activities.” The new rule defines sex as “biological,” or solely male or female as assigned at birth. This narrow definition eliminates protections for those who do not identify with the gender assigned at birth or who identify as non-binary. The department of Health and Human Services claims that the new ruling will “save taxpayers 2.9 billion in undue and ineffective regulatory burdens over five years.” Predictably, conservative camps are celebrating the ruling as a victory for religious liberty, stating that doctors should not be forced to provide care or services that are in conflict with their religion or morals.
I call crap on all of this.
Starting with the department of Health and Human Services, to characterize the protections of human beings as “undue regulatory burdens” is ugly, callous and out of alignment with the responsibilities of the agency. Let me remind the powers that be of the HHS mission statement: “to enhance and protect the health and well-being of all Americans.” All Americans, not some. As for religious liberty, these arguments are nothing more than a smokescreen for state-sanctioned discrimination. To the Christian conservatives, who seem to be most vociferous on this issue, I would ask what is immoral about caring for another human being? About alleviating suffering? About compassion? Exactly what kind of God are you worshiping?
This past week, two black transgender women were murdered. Rial Milton of Liberty Falls, Ohio was shot and killed during a robbery. Two suspects have been arrested and charged in the murder. A third suspect is still at large. The dismembered body of Rem’mie Fells was found floating in the Schuykill River in Philadelphia. A warrant has been issued for Akhenaton Jones, the suspect in her killing. These murders have caused great anguish for a community that is already struggling and accentuate the dangers that transgender women face, especially if they are black or brown. At a time when the country is mourning the murders of black people and enduring the COVID-19 crisis, Trump’s ruling is not only tone deaf but egregiously cruel.
As the mother of a transgender daughter, I’m outraged by this ruling and by Trump’s ongoing war against transgender people. I also know firsthand the hardships, indignities and threats that transgender, non-binary and gender nonconforming people face on a daily basis. The policies of this administration reflect a troubling lack of empathy and a fundamental disrespect for the humanity of transgender people. And with the issuance of each hateful order, Trump not only further erodes the rights of transgender people but also sends a message that they’re unworthy of the basic freedoms that we all enjoy, thus making a hard existence even harder. This breaks my heart. It also infuriates me.
I think we can all agree that Donald Trump has not made America great again. To the contrary, he sows division, amplifies hatred, incites violence and willfully creates difficulty for some of the most vulnerable among us. Because of his narcissism, incompetence and obstinacy, the country is now in the throes of a public health crisis that could have very well been mitigated. He is the biggest threat to public health and safety, national security and basic human decency. Trump is trash.
Our ultimate recourse is to vote the orange nightmare out of office, along with his odious mob of sycophantic lap dogs. Until that day in November, we have to continue to fight against his policies and negative influence at every single turn. This pushback is especially incumbent on those of us whose privilege allows us to do so with some measure of safety.
Please let’s remember –now and always– to take care of our transgender and non-binary friends, neighbors and loved ones. Check in. Ask them what they need. Listen. Offer food or a place to crash. Donate. Wrap them in tenderness and comfort. Be whatever refuge you can. Let us create an energetic force field to protect these cherished members of our community from the Trump administration and all other entities that seek to do harm.
And all the while, stay angry and resolute. We’re in the midst of a very necessary upheaval, collectively battling for the future of our very humanity.
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