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


For Immediate Release: Wednesday, June 25th
Contact: Rachael DeCruz,, 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“Removing these outdated exclusions brings Washington up-to-date with the latest information from medical experts and will provide transgender Washingtonians with access to life-saving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.

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 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.


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:

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


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.”


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;


Lornet Turnbull: 206-464-2420 or

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:  .  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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