Opinion

The Trump administration tries to erase transgender people

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Health care. Homeless shelters. The military. In school. At work.

The Trump administration is further escalating its attack on transgender people, including in situations when people are their most vulnerable.

Last week, as the violent deaths of three transgender women of color were making headlines, the Trump administration announced its intentions to allow health care providers and homeless shelters to discriminate against people based on gender identity.

The moves to rewrite the rules at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development follow efforts to deny nondiscrimination protections to transgender people in public accommodations and at their job and to kick them out of the military.

“This move by the Trump administration is nothing less than an act of violence against those whose health care needs have historically been ignored, neglected, and dismissed. Transgender and non-binary people experience staggering rates of discrimination from health care institutions and providers,” said Louise Melling, deputy legal director with the American Civil Liberties Union.

According to Lambda Legal, a legal aid organization for LGBT people, 70 percent of transgender and gender nonconforming people have reported discrimination by health care providers, including refusal of care, harsh language and being treated roughly.

Nearly one in four transgender people report not seeing a doctor for fear of being mistreated.

I recently visited my doctor for an annual check up. I’m a white male, in reasonably good health, and for weeks I fretted over the visit, concerned about some lingering holiday weight gain and potentially unknown — and largely imagined — ailments.

My wife and I have two kids, and while no one likes taking a child to the doctor, I’ve never once feared that they would be turned away or mistreated.

In Maine, we’re pushing back against the barbarity that allows some people to be treated inhumanly. Our Human Rights Act broadly prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and LD 1, which was passed and signed into law earlier this year, prohibits discrimination against LGBTQ people by health insurance companies.

And for the first time ever, a bipartisan majority in the U.S. House of Representatives voted in support of the Equality Act, which would explicitly create federal LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections. The Equality Act is also supported by Maine U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King and 45 other U.S. senators.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Donald Trump have made clear that they oppose the act and that a Senate vote is unlikely, but the House action is still important for the new ground that it breaks.

My friend and ACLU colleague, LaLa B Holston-Zannell, wrote a powerful blog post about the current attacks on transgender people that everyone should read.

“Trans women are women. Trans men are men. Nonbinary genders are real. We face violence and discrimination in almost every aspect of life. We are not a threat. And we have a right to belong in this country and in shelters. We deserve access to health care,” Holston-Zannell wrote.
She then offered three things that the rest of us can do to make a difference during this dangerous time for trans people:
— Check in on the trans people in your life and ask them what support they need;
— Speak up and ask candidates and elected officials what they are going to do about violence against transgender people (If you head down to New Hampshire to see your favorite presidential candidate, ask the tough questions. Don’t give them a pass); and
— Support trans-led organizations and ask how you can be part of the fight.
All of us have a responsibility to get involved and to push back against the attacks aimed at transgender people. The attacks are being done in our name by some of the most powerful people in the country. Silence makes us complicit.

David Farmer is a public affairs, political and media consultant in Portland, where he lives with his wife and two children. He was senior adviser to Democrat Mike Michaud’s 2014 campaign for governor.

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