Trans Health Insurance Forum a huge success

On Saturday January 17th, Gender Justice League hosted a Trans Health Insurance Forum
with the Coalition for Inclusive Healthcare. The forum featured panelists and presentation
on coverage for transition related care in private insurance policies, for state employees, those
with medicare, and soon-to-be coverage in AppleCare - Washington's medicaid program. The
forum was heavily attended with over 100 people signed in!  The panel took questions from
the audience and shared resources. Make sure to check out some of our written materials
bellow:

Medicare FAQ from National Center for Trans Equality
Information from the Washington Insurance Commissioner's Office
How to file a complaint about a denial of a claim by your insurance

We will be providing more information on Apple Care's new rules for coverage once they are
finalized this spring. Stay tuned!  You can also sign up for our Newsletter to get updates as
they emerge.


Frequently Asked Questions On Washington OIC Letter on Transgender Healthcare

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ON WASHINGTON INSURANCE COMMISSIONER LETTER ON TRANSGENDER HEALTHCARE

OVERVIEW
The Washington Insurance Commissioner’s office sent a letter to private insurers in Washington State on June 25th of 2014 announcing that in order to comply with provisions of the Washington Law Against Discrimination and the Affordable Care Act that prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity, health insurance plans sold in Washington can no longer deny health care to transgender policy holders which is provided to non-transgender policy holders. Removing these outdated exclusions brings Washington up-to-date with the latest information from medical experts and will provide countless Washingtonians with access to medically necessary health care. You can read more about this announcement on the Insurance Commissioner’s Website:  www.insurance.wa.gov

WHAT IS THE INSURANCE COMMISSIONER’S OFFICE AND WHAT AUTHORITY DOES IT HAVE?
The Office of the Insurance Commissioner oversees health insurance in the state of Washington. Insurance companies must comply with the Insurance Code and Insurance Commissioner rules that implement the Insurance Code in order to sell insurance in the state. The letter is intended to serve as notice to insurers and others of the agency’s expectations about how insurers and producers must act in transacting insurance in order to comply with Washington’s non-discrimination law, in particular the Anderson-Murray non-discrimination law of 2006. The Insurance Commissioner also has the power to ensure that plans offered in the state-based healthcare exchange comply with the Affordable Care Act.

WHAT KINDS OF EXCLUSIONS DOES THE LETTER IMPACT?
We interpret the letter to mean that:

  • Health insurers cannot deny coverage of treatments for transgender policy holders if the same treatments are covered for other policy holders.
  • Health insurers may not have riders that categorically exclude for all transgender patients gender-confirming surgeries/procedures that they would cover for other diagnoses.
  • The statewide mandate for coverage of mental health services must apply to transgender patients of all ages, therefore mental health care related to gender transition should be covered by insurers.
  • The designation of male or female may not be relevant to treatment (i.e., a person cannot be denied an ovarian cancer screening on the basis that they identify as male).
  • Transgender people will have to make the same case for ‘medical necessity’ of treatment with their medical provider to their insurance company as would anyone else seeking medical treatment.
  • This letter does not guarantee any specific coverage; it does however require insurers to provide the same services to transgender people as to non-transgender people and that they treat transgender people fairly.
  • If you believe you have been discriminated against – the Insurance Commissioner’s office will assist you in filing an appeal and will investigate if the law has been broken.
  • All plans in the 2015 health market exchange will be evaluated if they contain any discriminatory exclusions to make sure they cover medically necessary services equally for non-transgender and transgender enrollees
    • For example, if an insurer covers breast reduction surgery to lessen back pain, the insurer could not deny breast reduction surgery for gender transition if the provider deemed the treatment medically necessary. If hormone therapy is covered for other policyholders, it cannot be denied for gender transition if determined to be medically necessary. On the other hand, an insurer could exclude all coverage of breast implants or penile implants. In short, Washington law requires equality in treatment.

WHAT DO I DO IF I THINK AN INSURER HAS UNFAIRLY DENIED MY CLAIM?

  1. If you are denied coverage for a treatment, you must file an appeal through the insurance provider. Your appeal may be denied by your insurance company and should include any additional steps of appealing. You must complete all levels of internal appeal with the insurer.
  2. At the same time as you are going through the appeals process, file a complaint with the Insurance Commissioner’s Office. You may receive help with your complaint from an insurance consumer advocate by calling 1-800-562-6900 or by going to this website: http://www.insurance.wa.gov/complaints-and-fraud/file-a-complaint/insurance-company/   Filing with the Insurance Commissioner’s office is important as it helps other Transgender community members – if an insurance company is a “bad apple” the insurance commissioner may receive a lot of complaints and can take additional actions with that insurer for violating state law.
  3. The Insurance Commissioner can help follow your case with your insurance company and provide additional information to you as well as examine if the company has violated state law and tell the company to fix the problem.
  4. You can also contact QLaw’s GLBT Legal Clinic or Gender Justice League for additional assistance in navigating this problem.

BUT WHAT IF THE INSURER COVERS THE SAME PROCEDURES FOR OTHERS? ISN’T THIS FLAT OUT DISCRIMINATION? 

If the insurer is denying a claim for a treatment for a transgender-related condition but allows the same treatment to others for non-transgender-related condition simply by saying “this is not covered,” then the Insurance Commissioner may use existing non-discrimination statutes to require the insurer to provide coverage for the treatment of a transgender-related condition.  The availability of this option can only be made on a case-by-case basis, as many things influence the outcome, such as terms of the policy itself, reasons the carrier denied the claim or refused to approve the treatment, coverage provided to others seeking the same treatment for other reasons, etc.  When an insurer denies a claim based on “medical necessity,” the insurance company is essentially disagreeing with a doctor about the medical necessity of a procedure. The Insurance Commissioner does not have the authority to review individual medical necessity decisions. However, because of the expectations set forth in the letter, most insurers will likely have to make a determination that a treatment is not medically necessary in order to deny coverage.  In this case you now have access to an external review process administrated by the Insurance Commissioner. A Consumer Advocate from the Insurance Commissioner’s office can assist you through this process free of charge, but the Insurance Commissioner’s office cannot make the determination of medical necessity.  The Insurance Commissioner’s Office strongly urges an insured person to participate in this process if a claim is denied on the basis of medical necessity.

WHAT CAN I DO TO PROVE MEDICAL NECESSITY?

Medical necessity is determined on a case by case basis through guidelines established by your insurer.  However, we believe that if you follow the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) standards of care version 7 you should be able to make an argument that your care is medically necessary.  While there is no guarantee that your insurance will absolutely cover your care, following the WPATH standards of care is helpful in establishing the medical necessity of your care. Discuss with your doctor or therapist what course of medical care is best in your case.  You can download the WPATH standards of care here: http://www.genderjusticeleague.org/socv7.pdf

WHY IS THIS DECISION NEEDED?
Insurance companies routinely refuse to provide coverage for basic medical care to transgender people based on their transgender status or specifically exclude transgender-related services. Nearly all insurance plans categorically excluded coverage for transgender-related medical treatment, even when that treatment (such as mental health care or hormone replacement therapy) is covered for non-transgender people. This kind of categorical exclusion is no longer permitted.

IS THIS NECESSARY MEDICAL CARE?
Our nation’s most reputable medical bodies have identified transgender health care as being medically necessary. In 2008, the American Medical Association passed a resolution supporting public and private health insurance coverage for treatment of gender identity disorder and opposing the “exclusions of coverage for treatment of gender identity disorder when prescribed by a physician.” That same year, the American Psychological Association passed a resolution stating that the organization “opposes all public and private discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived gender identity and expression and urges the repeal of discriminatory laws and policies; in 2012 the American Psychiatric Association affirmed that the organization “Urges the repeal of laws and policies that discriminate against transgender and gender variant individuals.” and “Opposes all public and private discrimination against transgender and gender variant individuals in such areas as health care, employment, housing, public accommodation, education, and licensing.”  In June 2014, the US Department of Health and Human Services removed similar exclusions from the federally administered Medicare program, citing the medical necessity of this care.

WILL THIS RAISE INSURANCE RATES?
Past experience offers helpful information here. In 2012, the City of Seattle removed exclusions, and Seattle has seen no significant cost impact to their health plan. Similarly, the City of Portland, Oregon has estimated the premium impact to be .08%. The City and County of San Francisco removed exclusions from their employee benefits plan in 2001 and have not seen any discernible increase in health care costs. Six States including Oregon, California, Colorado, Vermont, Connecticut, and Massachusetts have all required insurers to remove these exclusions, with little impact to underlying insurance rates.

HOW WILL THIS AFFECT MEDICARE AND MEDICAID?
Recently Medicare announced that it was removing categorical exclusions in health care. This decision will have no impact on Medicare which is managed by the Federal Government. Medicaid is a state administered public insurance program and this letter will not apply to Medicaid because the program is regulated by a different state agency. The Coalition is working with the Health Care Authority to broaden Medicaid eligibility to include transition related health care. What is clear is that the letter will apply to all private insurance companies that operate in Washington.  The Coalition for Inclusive Health Care and transgender community leaders will continue working together to increase access to medically necessary care for all Washingtonians.

WHAT ABOUT FOR STATE EMPLOYEES?
The Coalition for Inclusive Healthcare has been working with the State Public Employees Benefits Board to bring inclusive coverage for state employees. We are optimistic the PEBB will remove transgender health exclusions, but no final decision has been made yet. If you have questions about State Employees or have experienced a denial letter – please reach out to the coalition.

WHAT ABOUT FOR SELF-INSURED PLANS?
Some large employers self-insure, meaning they pay insurance claims themselves. These self-insured plans are often administered by large insurance companies – so it may be difficult to know if your company has a self-insured plan -- but these plans are primarily at very large employers (more than 500 employees). Self-Insured Plans are governed by a Federal law called ERISA, which means that the Insurance Commissioner’s letter does not apply to those plans.  Many Self-Insured employers are working on removing these discriminatory exclusions.  Please contact the Coalition if you need help working with your employer to get coverage under a self-insured plan.

WHO ELSE IS PROVIDING THIS COVERAGE AND WHY?
Currently, 25% of Fortune 100 Companies and many Washington businesses offer inclusive health care, including healthcare for transgender employees. These businesses believe that providing all employees with the medically-necessary care they need to be healthy and productive is not just good for employees and their families, they know it is good for business.

Washington businesses that offer transgender-related coverage to their employees include: Washington Education Association, Microsoft, Amazon, Boeing, Progressive Insurance, Starbucks, Alcatel-Lucent, American Express, Ameriprise Financial, AT&T, Bank of America, Chrysler Motors, IBM, Kimpton Hotel & Restaurant Group, KPMG, Kraft Foods, McGraw- Hill, and State Farm.

You can download a PDF of this FAQ.
You can read the OIC Letter on their website.


Victory! Insurance Commissioner: Companies Can’t Discriminate Against Transgender Washingtonians

PRESS RELEASE

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, June 25th
Contact: Rachael DeCruz, [email protected], 206-323-3318 x 19 (cell: 508-451-9455)

Insurance Commissioner: Companies Can’t Discriminate Against Transgender Washingtonians

Insurance Commissioner Clarifies Insurance Companies Must Provide Coverage for Transgender People

 Olympia, WA—Earlier today, Washington State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler made an announcement clarifying that health insurance policies sold in Washington State cannot discriminate against transgender Washingtonians. The Coalition for Inclusive Healthcare applauds the Commissioner and his office for taking this important step forward.

Private health insurance policies routinely include clauses that specifically preclude transgender people from accessing medical and mental health care that is covered for other policy holders. The Office of the Insurance Commissioner, which oversees Washington’s private insurance companies, clarified that under both Washington’s 2006 non-discrimination law and the Federal Affordable Care Act, these categorical exclusions are illegal, and that insurance providers must cover the same services for transgender people as non-transgender people.

As in other states that have paved the way, the Coalition for Inclusive Healthcare hopes that insurance providers will utilize this guidance letter to update their policies—bringing parity to healthcare coverage. The coalition looks forward to working with insurers on implementing this guidance.

“Today’s announcement by the Insurance Commissioner affirms what we already know—that providing parity in healthcare coverage is not only the right thing to do, it’s also the law.” said Marsha Botzer, founder and Board Co-Chair of Ingersoll Gender Center.

“Removing these outdated exclusions brings Washington up-to-date with the latest information from medical experts and will provide transgender Washingtonians with access to life-saving and medically necessary health care,” said Danielle Askini, member of the Coalition for Inclusive Healthcare and Advocacy Director of the Gender Justice League.

Removing transgender exclusions in healthcare is also cost-effective. A 2013 study of Fortune 500 employers who offer transgender-inclusive health coverage to their workers found that providing such coverage had a negligible impact on costs. The City of Seattle, the Washington Education Association, Microsoft, Amazon, Boeing, and a growing number of large employers that self-insure already provide transgender-inclusive health coverage to their employees.

“As a smaller employer without the ability to self-insure, Pride Foundation found that we could not purchase an insurance plan in Washington that would provide these much-needed benefits to our employees,” said Seth Kirby, Board President of Pride Foundation. “We were compelled to create a supplemental policy to cover those services so that we could treat all employees fairly and remain a competitive employer.”

National and medical health experts—including the American Medical Association and more than eight major medical associations—have recognized that gender transition-related health care is medically necessary. Yet many transgender Washingtonians are routinely denied coverage for basic, medically-necessary care simply because they are transgender.

Nearly all insurance plans in Washington categorically exclude coverage for transition-related medical treatment, even when that same treatment (such as mental health care or hormone replacement therapy) is covered for non-transgender people. This discrimination can lead to serious—even life-threatening—conditions. Forty-five percent of transgender Washingtonians have attempted suicide at some point in their life according to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey. With access to gender transition related care medical research has shown that suicide attempt rate drops down to roughly 3 to 5%—only slightly higher than the general public.

“I know from personal experience how much these exclusions can hurt transgender people and their families,” said Gwen Yeh, a transgender woman. “Having been denied hormones and doctors’ visits sent a clear signal that I was not equal. This letter sends a strong message that all Washingtonians should be treated fairly by their insurance companies.”

“This care is life saving and medically necessary,” said Dr. Roberta Dalley, a physician at the University of Washington. “After 30 years of practice, refusing transgender people medical care because of who they are goes against everything I believe in as a physician.”

The Coalition for Inclusive Healthcare is a broad is a broad group of organizations and individuals that support inclusive healthcare for transgender people in Washington.

 # # #

 Support for Transgender Inclusive Healthcare

“I know from personal experience how much these exclusions can hurt transgender people and their families. Having been denied hormones and doctors’ visits sent a clear signal that I was not equal. This letter sends a strong message that all Washingtonians should be treated fairly by their insurance companies.”

-- Gwen Yeh, a transgender woman

“This care is life saving and medically necessary. After 30 years of practice, refusing transgender people medical care because of who they are goes against everything I believe in as a physician.”

-- Dr. Roberta Dalley, MD, GLMA Board Member, University of Washington Physician

“In 2006 the Washington State legislature banned discrimination in insurance based on a person’s gender identity. It’s time to make that promise a lived reality for all transgender people in Washington.”

--  Laurie Jinkins, Washington State Representative, 27th District

“The costs associated with removing transgender exclusions in healthcare coverage are negligible—making this a win-win proposition. We’re able to cover the full range of healthcare services for all Washingtonians, with no discernable cost.”

--  Louise Chernin, Greater Seattle Business Association

“It was important for us at the City of Seattle to model the values we share as a community—respect, dignity, and fairness. In 2012we matched our actions to our values by providing health insurance that covers transgender individuals.”

-- Sally J. Clark, Councilmember and Chair of the Committee on Housing Affordability, Human Services, and Economic Resiliency, Seattle City Council

“As a young transgender woman I know first-hand how important it is to have coverage for all of my healthcare needs. Transgender inclusive healthcare coverage means that I’m able to get the medically necessary care I need and don’t need to have the added stress of having coverage denied for routine blood work, or mental healthcare.”

-- Erin Smith, staff member at Associated Ministries in Tacoma


On the verge of our first major insurance victory, we need you!

We have almost secured our first major victory in removing Trans Health Insurance Exclusions for Washington State Employees, but we need your help!

Gender Justice League has been working  in coalition with other organization for almost two years to study transgender healthcare exclusions found in nearly all health insurance policies in Washington State. These exclusions have been used to deny transgender people the most basic health care services that everyone expects to get when they are sick. Coming out as trans for Emerson Sekins wasn't easy, but battling his insurance company for the basic healthcare that non-transgender people get every day made it so much harder.

 

"I remember sitting down with my parents and going through and explaining  what these exclusions would mean for my life and my care and having them be really worried for me. What happens if I get into an emergency situation, what happens just going into the doctors office on a routine basis and securing this coverage will be a huge relief for myself and my family."

A public victory for Washington State Employees will send a clear message that discriminatory insurance practices like this have no place in Washington State. The Public Employees Benefits Board is on the verge of making that change, but we need your help to see this through to the end.

Support our work and help us achieve our goal of raising $2,500 by the next Public Employees Benefits Board meeting on June 25.

You can read all about our work at the Public Employees Benefits Board in the Tacoma New Tribune. With this additional scrutiny we are certain we will face more opposition in making this change happen! The board has taken the very first steps to remove these discriminatory exclusions by setting a timeline of January 2016 to provide essential healthcare for all state employees regardless of their gender identity. That is too long to wait for the basic security of having our essential healthcare covered. We can do better! We need your help to seal the deal and make this care available by January 1st, 2015 - 1 year sooner than the current plan.

Watch this video of  interviews with Washington State Employees denied access to basic health care and a medical expert to learn more and Donate now!

Please help us lock down this victory by sharing this video and donating today.

Support our work and help us achieve our goal of raising $2,500 by the end of June to remove these discriminatory Healthcare Exclusions and seal the deal for transgender Washington State Employees.

-Danielle Askini
Advocacy and Fundraising Lead
Gender Justice League

 

 


An Open Letter to the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference

Dear PIELC organizers,

We the undersigned, as pro-feminist, pro-environment, social justice organizations of the Pacific Northwest, call on you to cancel Lierre Keith’s keynote at PIELC.

Keith and Deep Green Resistance actively support prejudice and bigotry against transgender people. Their acceptance of harassment targeting transgender people and supporters of transgender people contributes to a climate of violence and discrimination within their organization and this will affect your conference as well. This is not a simple issue of disagreement or academic debate. It will send a clear message to activists and community members who are transgender that they are not welcome at PIELC and may experience harassment if they attend. This is especially impactful to a population that is at exceptional risk of harassment and assault at school, at work, in activist spaces, in health care, and at the hands of police and the criminal justice system as outlined in the National Transgender Discrimination Survey.

Keith has stated that transgender women are “men pretending to be women” and are “absurd”, and that transgender related health care is “mutilating people’s bodies”. DGR representatives have stated that these are official organizational standpoints, however, co-founder Aric McBay found it necessary to leave DGR after a transgender inclusion policy was cancelled and the group’s other leaders refused to address in-group prejudice and bigotry targeting transgender people. Many other activists have also found it necessary to leave DGR due to harassment and discrimination on this issue. These attitudes also reinforce the belief that a woman’s worth is based on her sexual or reproductive anatomy, thereby supporting the systems that seek to control and harm all women’s bodies, whether they are transgender or not. Judging women based on their sexual and reproductive anatomy is not a radical feminist act, and is not acceptable under any circumstances.

Furthermore, former DGR members have reported needing to leave the organization due to anti-Indigenous statements made by Keith and other DGR leaders, as well as an organizational environment that prevents people of color from attaining leadership positions. Inviting a speaker who has so seriously failed in the area of racial justice sends the message to PIELC attendees that racial justice is not important in environmental movements. In a context where communities of color are affected by environmental racism in drastic and disproportionate ways, this is disrespectful and dangerous.

Transgender people, people of color, and allies are valuable members of both environmentalist communities and the UO community. Inviting Kieth to speak will make PIELC a dangerous and demeaning environment that will deny these activists the right to attend PIELC safely. This will be a loss both to activists who feel unable to attend PIELC, and to PIELC attendees who will be not have the opportunity to network and learn from them.

PIELC has a long history of creating a powerful, diverse environment, welcoming people of all backgrounds and enriched by active anti-oppression work. We urge you not to destroy this legacy by inviting Lierre Keith to your conference and condoning the hatred of transgender people.

Sincerely,

Gender Justice League
Seattle Clinic Defense
The Survival Center
LGBTQ Allyship
Equal Rights Washington


Seattle Times Coverage

We were honored at Trans* Pride Seattle to grace the cover of Monday June 24th edition of the Seattle Times.
You can read the article here: http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2021257244_transpridexml.html

Originally published June 23, 2013 at 9:03 PM | Page modified June 24, 2013 at 5:44 PM

Transgender people say they’re ready for the spotlight

Transgender activists have planned a march and festival during Seattle’s Pride celebrations to increase visibility of a little-understood segment of the LGBT community.

By Lornet Turnbull  Seattle Times staff reporter

Enlarge this photoERIKA SCHULTZ / THE SEATTLE TIMES

FINN COTTOM, 29: Program director of Reel Queer Youth, identifies as gender queer. “I don’t identify as a man or a woman; it doesn’t fit a narrow definition.”

RELATED

They are the “T” in LGBT and arguably the most maligned segment of that community.

Many transgender men and women face hardships in routine areas of daily life. They are twice as likely as the general population to be unemployed or homeless and four times as likely to live in poverty.

Some 90 percent said in a 2011 national survey that they had encountered discrimination at work, and more than one in three attempt suicide at some point in their lives.

Such dire statistics are part of what inspired Danielle Askini, a 30-year-old transgender activist, and a group of volunteers, to organize Trans Pride in Seattle during the week set aside at the end of June each year to mark the historical launch of the nation’s gay-rights movement.

Executive director of a Seattle organization called the Gender Justice League, Askini said the goal is to help promote visibility of a population often in the shadows of its higher-profile gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.

“For us there are some very distinct political and sociological justice struggles that the LGBT community has not always been the best in addressing,” said Askini, who lives in Kirkland and is program manager for QLaw, the state’s LGBT bar association.

“Some of us are calling this our coming-out party.”

The Williams Institute, a national think tank that does public-policy research on sexual orientation and gender identity, estimates there are 700,000 transgender people in the U.S. — people whose birth-assigned sex does not match the gender to which they feel they belong.

Trans Pride celebrations are planned for a number of U.S. cities this year.

In Seattle, one is scheduled for Friday, beginning with a 6 p.m. march from Seattle Central Community College on Capitol Hill to Cal Anderson Park, followed by a festival at the park.

Starting to gain visibility

It’s been 44 years since the riots at the Stonewall Inn in New York launched the gay-rights movement.

And in cities across the country, the LGBT community marks the anniversary with colorful pageantry — including a parade down Fourth Avenue in Seattle followed by a festival at Seattle Center and smaller celebrations throughout the month.

In the 1990s, transgender people began participating in Seattle Pride for the first time — one of the first cities where that occurred — and in 1997 hosted their own Trans Pride Rally, which drew about 150 people onto Broadway on Capitol Hill.

In recent years, as the broader LGBT community has built strong alliances and gained broad acceptance, the particular needs of transgender people have been getting more attention, too.

The Social Security Administration recently announced it would no longer require proof of surgery to alter the gender ID of individuals in its records; other federal agencies also have relaxed requirements for documents such as passports and visas.

Transgender men and women also have gained protection against discrimination in areas such as housing and employment in Washington, 15 other states and the District of Columbia, and more than half of all Fortune 500 companies now have nondiscrimination policies in place.

During the first August weekend each year, thousands from across the world attend the Gender Odyssey conference in Seattle, an international event focusing on the needs of transgender and gender-variant individuals.

And a growing number of employers nationwide, including Microsoft, have expanded their insurance coverage to meet the needs of transgender workers — a major area of concern for the community.

 

 

Creating energy

Still, transgender people — who can be either gay or straight — have not gained the kind of visibility that the gay community has.

Nor have they experienced the kind of broad successes the gay community has won in recent years, with same-sex marriage now legal in 12 states, including Washington, and the repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don't tell” policy, which banned openly gay military service. The U.S. military still prohibits transgender people from serving openly.

Marsha Botzer is co-founder and chair of the Ingersoll Gender Center, a Seattle-based organization that works with transgender people and has become one of their best known advocates on a local and national level.

She said “like any group, there’s a period of survival, early organizing, then a stage where the community widens and matures, and at some point there’s the public identification of the community.”

The transgender community has now arrived at that point, she said.

Trans Pride, in which Ingersoll will participate, should help “increase visibility for the community; and if it brings more energy at all — and it will — that’s always welcome and wonderful,” she said.

Botzer said the findings of the national poll, conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce, are mirrored in Washington state, where concerns over joblessness and underemployment are among the reasons the Ingersoll center began an employment project.

Advocates believe transgender people face discrimination in large part because of how they may look — a male-to-female transgender person might be much taller than the average woman or have a deeper voice, or a trans male might still have hips and female breasts.

Some employers might find that unsettling, out of sync with their view of gender as being immutable.

Health-care concerns

Access to health care, particularly health-insurance coverage, is another primary concern for transgender men and women.

Most employer-based health-insurance plans exclude coverage for transition-related treatment and other care on the grounds they’re cosmetic or elective in nature — claims that have been challenged by medical professionals.

Fred Swanson, executive director of the Gay City Health Project, Trans Pride’s fiscal sponsor, said an added community concern is the high rate of HIV.

Part of the problem, Swanson said, is that transgender people are not accessing health care at the same level as the general population, in part because of the challenge in finding culturally competent medical providers they feel they can trust.

“For gays and lesbians, that’s a challenge,” he said. “For transgender and gender variant individuals, it’s very difficult.”

He points to Centers for Disease Control statistics that show male-to-female transgender people have an HIV rate of 28 percent. Gay City will make the first mass distribution of home HIV test kits in King County during Trans Pride and other Pride events that weekend.

Askini, 30, who was raised by foster parents from around age 15 when she began transitioning to female, represents a new generation of activists. Like many young people throughout the LGBT movement, she is eager for change.

But she and other transgender people recognize the limitations of the law in addressing many of the challenges they face.

Laws alone, she points out, won’t stop negative media portrayals or prevent transgender people from taking their own lives. “The law can’t force your neighbor to like you,” Askini said.

She believes society is growing more familiar with those in her community as transgender people come out publicly.

Chaz Bono, the only child of celebrities Cher and Sonny Bono, announced his transition from female to male about four years ago, and President Obama three years ago became the first U.S. president to appoint a transgender person to his administration.

Askini believes the next step is for transgender people to gain more acceptance through visibility, by allowing others to get to know them as neighbors, co-workers and friends — much as the larger gay and lesbian community has done.

“That cultural shift has started to happen,” she said. “The reason we started Trans Pride is to highlight that, to increase visibility, while creating something where we in the community can see one another and celebrate ourselves.”

 

Pride highlights

Trans Pride: march to Cal Anderson Park starts at 6 p.m. Friday, followed by program, performances and dancing.

PrideFest Family Day: games, crafts, bounce house, magic, music. Noon-5 p.m. Saturday, Cal Anderson Park.

Pride Parade: Starts at 11 a.m. Sunday. Travels Fourth Avenue from Union Street to Denny Way.

PrideFest: Performers on five stages, noon-8 p.m. Sunday, Seattle Center.

More at seattlepride.org; transprideseattle.org

 

Lornet Turnbull: 206-464-2420 or [email protected]

On Twitter @turnbullL.


Help Make Trans* Pride Seattle Happen!

Gender Justice League is ecstatic to learn that we had been awarded a City of Seattle Neighborhood's Department Match Grant of $15,292.  for Trans* Pride Seattle!  However, in order to get these funds, Gender Justice League and Trans* Pride Seattle have to match the city's grant!  We need your help to raise $7,500 by June 28th!  Help us bring luminaries like Julia Serano, the ever talented and hysterical Ian Harvie, and award winning musician Rae Spoon to Seattle! You can donate to the campaign here: http://www.gofundme.com/transprideseattle  .  Please share this fundraising campaign widely!   For every dollar we raise the city of Seattle will match us with two dollars up to $7,500!!  This is a great opportunity to double your impact!


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