On Friday, June 12, the Trump administration rolled back rules that protected transgender people from being discriminated against in healthcare. The regulation was initially implemented by the Obama Administration as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
The ACA prevents healthcare institutions that receive federal funding from discriminating on the basis of sex. Under the Obama Administration, a rule was put forth that clarified “on the basis of sex” to specifically include gender identity.
Now, the Department of Health and Human Services is reversing that regulation. The department defines “on the basis of sex” as referring to “male or female as determined by biology.”
This announcement took place on the fourth anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub shooting, during Pride month, amidst a pandemic. Pulse Orlando is an LGBTQIA+ club, and the shooting was the deadliest mass shooting in United States history. 49 people were killed in the shooting, who were primarily Latinx, Puerto Rican, and LGBTQIA+. Pride month celebrates the anniversary of the Stonewall riots and the LGBTQIA+ rights movement which started by Black transgender people as a response to police brutality and harassment. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused over 100,000 deaths in the United States, and disproportionately impacts Black and other marginalized communities.
Healthcare professionals noted that this move could prevent transgender people from receiving life-saving care related to COVID-19, as well as procedures and care necessary to combatting gender dysmorphia.
14 transgender or gender non-conforming people have been killed this year, but the real numbers may be even higher than that. Just last week, two Black trans women—Dominique “Rem’Mie” Fells and Riah Milton—were murdered, and according to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), “over the past several years, more than 150 transgender people have been killed in the United States, nearly all of them Black transgender women.”
The Trump administration has a history of targeting transgender people. During Trump’s term, the executive branch has implemented policies that are harmful to transgender employees, students, and houseless people.
Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, Deputy Executive Director for the National Center for Transgender Equality, stated, “It’s really, really horrendous to not only gut nondiscrimination protections, but to gut nondiscrimination protections in the middle of a pandemic… this rule opens a door for a medical provider to turn someone away for a Covid-19 test just because they happen to be transgender.”
Sources: New York Times 06/15, Washington Post 06/15, ProPublica 06/15, Chicago Tribune 06/15, Associated Press 06/15, PBS 06/15, CDC 06/15, Human Rights Campaign 06/15, CNN 06/15