by: Raechel T
This month marks the launch of the first-ever National Month of Action for Transgender Healthcare, a campaign organized by Pride at Work, the Center for American Progress, the Service Employees International Union Lavender Caucus, Basic Rights Oregon, the Transgender Law Center, and the National Center for Transgender Equality. The goal of the campaign is to mobilize union members, students, non-union workers, and allies in an effort to make transgender-inclusive healthcare more common, accessible, and affordable. In addition, organizers of the campaign hope to educate the public about what it means to be transgender and the ways in which healthcare industries continue to exclude trans and gender variant communities.
In many workplaces, transgender individuals are denied access to many kinds of health-care and coverage that their non-transgender (cisgender) co-workers have without question. Whether through exclusions in health insurance policies or lack of access to competent healthcare providers, transgender individuals face extensive barriers to accessing appropriate, affordable healthcare.
A 2011 national study by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force found that 19% of transgender and gender non-conforming people are denied healthcare, and 28% of transgender and gender non-conforming people postpone medical care for fear of discrimination. Key findings also reveal that respondents experienced double the rate of unemployment as the general population; near universal harassment on the job; significant losses of jobs and careers; and higher rates of poverty. Not surprisingly, the economic inequality experienced by so many transgender people often leads to a lack of quality healthcare options.
The fact that economic instability contributes to the marginalization of transgender people makes clear why the labor movement is an ideal place from which to struggle for transgender justice. Like historic LGBT-labor alliances of the past—including labor’s support of LGB teachers who fought against the Briggs Initiative, the LGBT-labor sponsored boycott against Coors, and, more recently, major union’s support of marriage equality—this campaign illustrates that injustice is intersectional and connected. The system that oppresses the working-class is the same system that oppresses LGBT people, people of color, differently-abled people, and immigrants (etc.). In order to fight against that system, all oppressed peoples must work together and recognize that, to echo labor leader Joe Hill, “An injury to one is an injury to all.”
Trans Month of Action will move the conversation on transgender healthcare discrimination forward by also discussing the critical need for insurance providers to include transition-related care in their policies.
The events taking place this month in conjunction with the month of action all aim to highlight these connections. So far, actions are taking place across ten cities, including Portland, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Washington DC, New York, Miami, Atlanta, and Sacremento. And, for you Chicago locals, check out the Open Forum on Transgender Health, Healthcare, and the Transgender Community at UIC on March 18th.
Although the campaign is a month of action, the struggle for transgender healthcare and other demands for transgender justice need to be ongoing. In their important novel about the challenges faced by trans and gender non-conforming people, Stone Butch Blues, Leslie Feinberg writes, “Surrenderin’ is unimaginably more dangerous than struggling for survival!”
That’s a lesson the labor movement knows all too well, and the transgender and allied organizers behind this campaign are committed to the struggle. If you want to be a part of this historic effort, consider organizing a local event, or, if you have personal experience dealing with transgender healthcare issues, consider sharing your story. Visit www.transmonthofaction.org to learn more.