My Employer Denied My Transgender Daughter Equal Health Care
When our oldest child came out to us as transgender, my wife and I faced a steep learning curve.
As part of this learning process, we discovered that transgender adolescents have significantly higher rates of depression and suicide than other teens. Learning about the struggles of those with untreated gender dysphoria—the condition of experiencing a conflict between one’s assigned gender and gender with which the person identifies—helped us understand some of the behavior we’d seen in our child. What we assumed was teenage moodiness and angst turned out to be the expression of someone who was burdened by the feeling of living a lie.
While we still had questions, what was immediately clear was the importance of getting Stella the best possible treatment available.
We had always relied on my employer, Yuba College, for our healthcare coverage. But when we consulted my health plan documents in 2017, we were shocked to discover a blanket exclusion on transition-related health care. We reached out to the plan administrator and my employer about the exclusion, expressing our correct concern that it was illegal. We were ignored for a year, our calls and communications going unanswered.
Finally, in March of 2019 we had enough. We were paying thousands of dollars in healthcare costs that should have been covered. My daughter became afraid to seek care for any health issue. I attended the insurance group’s annual meeting to request the exclusion be removed. Again, we were met with silence. For the next six months, I attended every monthly meeting, using whatever time allowed me to call for the elimination of the exclusion.
We also reached out to the ACLU, which has a track record of helping families like ours challenge discriminatory policies that make it harder for transgender people to get the health coverage they deserve. They confirmed that the exclusion is illegal.
The insurance group is finally set to make a decision this Friday, a full two years after the matter was brought to their attention. We were only able to get to this point because of the ACLU, my daughter’s willingness to share her story, and the privileges that allowed me to fight a time- and resource-consuming battle.
This is not the case for many transgender people. I have co-workers who are impacted by the exclusion but cannot make themselves or their dependents part of a public fight. People like the insurance group’s director are aware of the social costs of coming out as transgender and the financial costs of a protracted legal battle. They figure if they delay long enough, the “problem” will go away.
Our hope is that my employer and the insurance group will do the correct and legal thing, which will set an example in our region. If they act now, they still have the opportunity to demonstrate leadership and contribute in real ways to improving the health of the communities they serve.
Brian Condrey is a faculty member at Yuba College in Marysville. His daughter is currently a student at San Francisco State University.