I’m a member of the Human Rights Campaign, one of the biggest LGBT equality groups in the United States, and I get their email blasts that are supposed to keep us informed about how they’re spending our money, what kind of legalized discrimination they’re fighting against, and where some of the most egregious abuses are occurring.
There are a couple things, one good, one bad, one somewhat questionable thing, from the most recent email blast I want to bring up, so I’ll just dive right in.
First, the good: Rep. Richard Floyd, a Republican from Chattanooga, TN, was trying to get a law passed that would make it a misdemeanor offense (punishable with a $50 fine) to use a bathroom other than the one assigned for your birth sex. I’ve written at length about these so-called bathroom bills in the past, so I don’t want to rehash what I’ve already said. I am gratified to see, though, that unlike previous situations, the comments on the article at the Chattanooga Times Free Press are mostly sensible. The worst part of the whole thing, in fact, are Rep. Floyd’s remarks. If a teenager is dressed as a woman, and presumably trying on women’s clothing, it’s quite possible you’re dealing with someone who’s trans. Granted, there are some transgender teenagers who are perfectly happy with who they are and I think that’s awesome. In such cases, more power to them. Let’s just get out of their way. But what if that child, and I’m projecting a bit based on my own experience, is confused, full of self-loathing and needs more than a little help? Is charging that individual with a crime really the best way to handle the situation?
If said teenager is trying to use the women’s dressing room, I think the appropriate response here, and the response that seems quite lacking from most Republicans, is one of compassion. Rep Floyd, on the other hand, seems to think that “stomp[ing] a mudhole in him and then stomp[ing] him dry,” is the appropriate response. And they wonder why there’s so little support for the Religious Right/Moral Majority of my parents’ generation…
The good news, though, is that a member of the Tennessee state Senate, one Bo Watson, who had originally sponsored the bill, has done an appropriate about face and effectively tabled the measure, citing the more pressing issues that face our nation and his state as more deserving of the legislature’s time and effort. I don’t think this is the end of the situation in Tennessee, but at least it effectively neutralizes the threat.
The bad news I mentioned above is that in Oklahoma, they’re considering codifying a ban on gays and lesbians in the state’s National Guard. According to HRC, the state would be allowed to ask about the sexual orientation of service members. If there’s one thing the repeal of DADT has taught me, it’s that none of the dire predictions by the fearmongering Republicans came to pass. Having gay and lesbian service members only makes our military better and stronger– if you want to sign the petition to get this ridiculous measure tabled, you can do so through the HRC’s website, here.
The lukewarm news comes by way of Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, who recently released her remarks on how the department is improving the lives of LGBT Americans. I’ve seen and heard a lot of good things about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and think that once again, the Republicans are screaming about the falling sky on bright, sunny days. On the downside, I have a major question about the ACA, and how Secretary Sebelius thinks it improves the lives of LGBT Americans, or at least, transgender Americans (that’s what you’re here for, right? Trans issues?).
Specifically, while we might all have the opportunity to obtain health insurance, with no exclusions for prior or current illnesses, I haven’t seen anything that addresses the refusal of Medicaid, state insurance or private insurers to cover transition related care. When abortion and birth control are things that our legislators are arguing about covering with public money, I can’t see how treatment related to transition, even when medically necessary, is going to be covered. Trans people historically get thrown under the bus, our interests sacrificed in order to make gains for other groups that represent more people (does anyone remember the trans inclusive ENDA and how quickly the trans part of that got excised back in 2007?). Transition related care can and probably will still be excluded from coverage, leaving us to try and find ways to cover the exorbitant costs on our own. While the ACA is a good step forward, I think it’s a bit silly to act as though it’s doing us a lot of favors. While we may be able to obtain insurance, the most expensive aspects of our care will still be excluded from coverage and that isn’t good enough.
Since things aren’t good enough, please consider going to the HRC website and finding ways to support the cause of LGBT equality, writing to your Congress critters and asking them to support the repeal of DOMA and to support a trans-inclusive ENDA. If enough of us are interested in the cause of social justice, we can’t be ignored.
While there are pressing issues facing our country, including a bad economy, I don’t believe that fixing the economy is separate from fixing problems of inequality for the LGBT community: repealing DOMA and passing a trans-inclusive ENDA and improving healthcare for LGBT Americans are all things that help people, real people like me, like your friends and family, save money on our taxes, save money on our necessary healthcare and ensure that the jobs we have are jobs we don’t have to worry about losing because of who we are.