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The Fight for Transgender Healthcare in the United States

Photo: Courtesy of Denin Lawley

Transgender allies and activist groups continue the long fight towards equal rights as several states such as Arkansas and Alabama attempt to pass bills to exclude healthcare rights for the trans community

The fight ahead

In March of 2021, Arkansas became the first state to enact a bill that restricted access to healthcare for transgender children. The following month, this bill became a law, stating that transgender people under the age of 18 were prohibited from receiving gender-affirming treatments or medical care such as surgeries and hormone medication, regardless of whether parental consent was given.

Arkansas is one of a staggering 16 states that have explicitly excluded transgender communities’ healthcare. Texas, Arizona, Ohio, and Georgia–to name a few–have purposefully left out coverage and care for transgender people in their Medicaid policies. Several states including North Carolina, Florida, and Louisiana have explicitly excluded transgender healthcare in its employee health benefits. 

These policies followed the reversal of Obama’s ruling for nondiscrimination based on sex and gender identity in Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, that was enacted during the Trump administration. This left a growing community of 1.7 million US citizens more susceptible to not only discrimination, but health issues, as they were denied a basic human right allowed to the rest of the population. 

Although the Biden administration has made movements to correct some of these policies–a statement was made on May 10 highlighting that it would reverse Trump’s policy and put in place protections for transgender healthcare–the afformentioned US states are still attempting to pass anti-trans bills. For example the Alabama House attempted to pass Senate Bill 10, which would have made it a felony for doctors to provide transgender-related tratments to youths under the age of 19. The bill’s failure to pass was a significant victory for the trans community, but the fight continues. 

Advocacy for trans rights and support for trans organizations are instrumental in taking back a fundamental healthcare right. According to the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, because the transgender community is denied medications and treatments that are allowed to the rest of the population, there are “increased incidences of depression and substance abuse as well as health complications caused by delaying care.” 

What you can do to help the transgender community now

There are multiple active organizations that are currently fighting for trans rights, and it is the overwhelming support from community members and trans advocates that allows these organizations to push back against discriminatory policies and demand equal rights for those of all gender identities. Below are a few organizations that are leading the fight; click their links to learn more or donate:

  • The Transgender Advocates Knowledgeable Empowering (TAKE) organization is an Alabama-based foundation that works to bring a community together to empower trans women of color. Through donations, TAKE is able to increase accessibility to trans services as well as working to provide economic stability to trans women of color.
  • The Sylvia Rivera Law Project “seek[s] to increase the political voice and visibility of low-income people and people of color who are transgender, intersex, or gender non-conforming. SRLP works to improve access to respectful and affirming social, health, and legal services for [its] communities” (SLRP, About).
  • The Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund is “a 501(c)(3) nonprofit whose mission is to end discrimination and achieve equality for transgender people, particularly those in our most vulnerable communities” (TLDEF, About Us).
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