Beginning Sunday, gender-affirming health care will be covered as part of Alaska's Medicaid program, which helps cover costs for low-income individuals.

The change comes after a lawsuit settlement in late June. The suit had been filed against Alaska’s health department for not covering trans Alaskans and their transitions, according to The Anchorage Daily News. The suit said the state’s refusal to cover gender-affirming health care costs was a violation of trans Alaskans’ civil rights.

Swan Being, a trans woman in her early 70s, sued the state in 2019 after she was informed that her hormone injections were not covered under Medicaid, even though her doctors recommended her continued use of the hormones.

Robin Black and Austin Reed joined the lawsuit in 2020. Both were denied gender-affirming care as well.

Specifically, the state agreed in the settlement to take out the ban on the “treatment, therapy, surgery, or other procedures related to gender reassignment” and “transsexual surgical procedures or secondary consequences” from its Medicaid plan.

“Transition-related health care is essential health care, full stop. Our clients are delighted that the State of Alaska, at long last, recognized that fact. Our clients and other transgender Alaskans will no longer endure the physical, mental, and stigmatizing harm caused by exclusions in the state Medicaid program,” Lambda Legal attorney Carl Charles said in a press release at the time of settlement.

Swan Being, a trans woman an LGBTQ+ advocacy group, represented Being, Black, and Reed along with the Northern Justice Project.

Ten states still have laws that specifically exclude gender-affirming health care from their Medicaid programs, according to the Movement Advancement Project.

In 2018, a legislative librarian, Jennifer Fletcher, sued Alaska for excluding coverage of gender-affirming surgery for trans employees. Last year, a judge sided with Fletcher. He said, according to the Associated Press, that her health care was treated differently because of her sex.

While it may have been true during Tip O’Neil’s time that “All politics is local,” it’s been 34 years since he served as Speaker of the U.S. House and 27 years since he died.  With the dominance of talk radio and cable news networks and the central role social media plays in our lives, we can say with increasing confidence now that all politics is national.

Louisiana Republicans’ decision to die on the hill of anti-transgender legislation is proof.  The desire to ban transgender girls and women from girls’ sports competition couldn’t possibly have been driven by local politics because, as both opponents and proponents of the legislation acknowledge, there is no known case of any transgender girl or woman competing in Louisiana athletics.

But Republicans decided to host the first veto override session in the state’s history mostly to demonstrate to the Deep South’s only Democratic governor that his veto of the anti-transgender legislation wasn’t enough to protect the transgender youth the governor expressed concern about. They ended the session looking hapless, failing to override that veto — or any of the governor’s other 27.

It’s inconceivable that a transgender girl could compete if she wanted to because the Louisiana High School Athletics Association doesn’t allow students to compete on sports teams that don’t match the sex assigned to them at birth unless they underwent gender affirmation surgery before puberty and then waited two years to apply for competition. Performing such surgeries on prepubescent children is unheard of.

As Rep. Royce Duplessis (D-New Orleans) said from the floor of the House Wednesday, “If this were a real problem, we would have addressed this issue, years ago. But this is nothing but a manufactured wedge issue that is aimed only at dividing us. And that is what it has done.”

It isn’t the only manufactured issue that the state’s Republicans have been describing as an existential threat. The other issues include critical race theory — which they appear to have just heard of — the apparent faultiness of our election apparatus, and the idea that it’s a burden for people who want to carry concealed to have to get a permit.

But the transgender sports ban, even though it would have banned athletes who are already banned, was the most meanspirited.

While it may have been true during Tip O’Neil’s time that “All politics is local,” it’s been 34 years since he served as Speaker of the U.S. House and 27 years since he died.  With the dominance of talk radio and cable news networks and the central role social media plays in our lives, we can say with increasing confidence now that all politics is national.

Louisiana Republicans’ decision to die on the hill of anti-transgender legislation is proof.  The desire to ban transgender girls and women from girls’ sports competition couldn’t possibly have been driven by local politics because, as both opponents and proponents of the legislation acknowledge, there is no known case of any transgender girl or woman competing in Louisiana athletics.

But Republicans decided to host the first veto override session in the state’s history mostly to demonstrate to the Deep South’s only Democratic governor that his veto of the anti-transgender legislation wasn’t enough to protect the transgender youth the governor expressed concern about. They ended the session looking hapless, failing to override that veto — or any of the governor’s other 27.

It’s inconceivable that a transgender girl could compete if she wanted to because the Louisiana High School Athletics Association doesn’t allow students to compete on sports teams that don’t match the sex assigned to them at birth unless they underwent gender affirmation surgery before puberty and then waited two years to apply for competition. Performing such surgeries on prepubescent children is unheard of.

As Rep. Royce Duplessis (D-New Orleans) said from the floor of the House Wednesday, “If this were a real problem, we would have addressed this issue, years ago. But this is nothing but a manufactured wedge issue that is aimed only at dividing us. And that is what it has done.”

It isn’t the only manufactured issue that the state’s Republicans have been describing as an existential threat. The other issues include critical race theory — which they appear to have just heard of — the apparent faultiness of our election apparatus, and the idea that it’s a burden for people who want to carry concealed to have to get a permit.

But the transgender sports ban, even though it would have banned athletes who are already banned, was the most meanspirited.

Several Black Democrats, who depend on religious voters as much if not more than their White Republican counterparts do, were among the yes votes when the bill originally passed through the Legislature, but not one supported the veto override. Duplessis’ district includes the French Quarter, so he said he had no worries about anger from his voters, but he acknowledged that many of his Black colleagues were in a bind.  “What helped many of the Black Democrats… was the fact that this became an R versus D thing, and it was really more of an effort to override a Democratic governor.”

Duplessis said the state and local parties are “all taking their cues from whoever the leader of their party is, and if you’re on the right within the Republican Party, it’s obviously Trump. The nuances that used to exist at the local level… I don’t really see that playing out much around here.”

That’s what made the emphasis on overriding vetoes so shameful.  With all the problems Louisiana does have — poverty, pollution, skyhigh COVID-19 infection rates — Louisiana Republicans launched a losing war over problems that don’t exist.

If you’ve ever attended the annual Pride event in Buffalo, then you know that Buffalo is a very open and welcoming community when it comes to anything related to the LGBTQ cause. While the national LGBTQ rights movement was not born in Buffalo, there have been plenty of activists that have fought so very hard to ensure that this city would stand up, speak up, and fight for the oppressed and downtrodden. 

The Buffalo-Niagara LGBTQ History Project was established to pay tribute to the people who fought, and to those who sacrificed, for the rights of the LGBTQ community here in WNY. One of the ways that the group is doing this is by installing LGBTQ-themed historic markers at significant sites throughout the city and the region.

The first marker to be installed recognizes the efforts of local gay rights activist Bob Uplinger, who was the arrested via entrapment measures in 1981. Uplinger was incarcerated for inviting an undercover police officer back to his apartment, which resulted in a multi-year anti-entrapment legal battle. Uplinger’s conviction, and the resulting fights for justice, led to changes in legislation that decriminalized consensual sex between same-sex partners (under the guise of “loitering to solicit deviate sex”). The New York State Court of Appeals dismissed Uplinger’s conviction in 1983 (as unconstitutional), and the following year the United States Supreme Court dismissed an appeal by the Erie County District Attorney. 

As archaic as this all sounds today, without the resoluteness and conviction of Uplinger and his stalwart determination to fight for his rights, and the rights of others, who knows how much longer it would have taken to thwart these injustices?

It is for that reason that Uplinger’s legacy is now being honored with a historic marker at the corner of North Street and Irving Place where the incident occurred – 40 years from the day when Uplinger was unjustly incarcerated.

The commemoration will take place on Saturday, August 7, 2021 at 4:00 p.m.

 

On Friday, California’s Third District Court of Appeal overturned a key protection of SB 219 — a bill authored by Senator Scott Wiener in 2017 — stating in the decision that the law requiring staff members of long-term care facilities to use a facility resident’s correct name and pronouns is a violation of the staff’s First Amendment rights to free speech, free exercise of religion, and freedoms of thought and belief.

SB 219, also known as the LGBTQ Senior Bill of Rights, protects LGBTQ seniors in long-term care facilities from discrimination and mistreatment based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. Senator Wiener authored and passed SB 219 in 2017, and then-Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill into law.

Senator Wiener released the following statement on the Court’s decision:

“The Court’s decision is disconnected from the reality facing transgender people. Deliberately misgendering a transgender person isn’t just a matter of opinion, and it’s not simply ‘disrespectful, discourteous, or insulting.’ Rather, it’s straight up harassment. And, it erases an individual’s fundamental humanity, particularly one as vulnerable as a trans senior in a nursing home. This misguided decision cannot be allowed to stand.”

As Republican governors across the country have banned gender reassignment for children, the Secretary of Veteran Affairs announced the taxpayer funding of gender reassignment for veterans. Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough has pushed for free gender reassignment surgeries for veterans.

McDonough estimated this would cost taxpayers up to $71 million for about 3,000 veterans annually. However, for McDonough the up front costs will save tax dollars in the long run.

“We also think that these are manageable numbers and overtime,” he explained. “If we make this investment, we’ll save costs on things like mental health care treatment and other health care problems that would result of our transgender vets not having access to this care.”

McDonough said Joe Biden picked him to advocate for veterans and for that reason, the administration would allow him to do what he found to be necessary to help all veterans. He implied that veterans of color and LGBTQ veterans particularly earned the help.

“That’s what he expects of me to make sure that we’re doing the best that we can, offering world-class health care and timely access to benefits for all veterans,” he stated. “Be they veterans of color or LGBTQ+ veterans, our job is to get them all the service and the care that they’ve earned.”

President Donald Trump’s administration banned those diagnosed with gender dysphoria from serving in combat and disallowed government funding for gender reassignment treatments and procedures. He did so after President Barack Obama permitted openly trans people to serve.

Obama administration also allowed for the taxpayer funding of so-called gender affirming care and psychological treatment. Joe Biden signed an executive order overturning President Trump’s ban as one of his first acts in the Oval Office.

Biden went on to say, “Essentially, we’re restoring the situation we had before with transgender personnel who have qualified in every other way to serve their government in the united states military.”

Now that the policy has gone full circle, McDonough says it needs public comment and approval before being reimplemented.

“One, we have to do this pursuant to statute and two, we have to do it publicly, subject to public comment,” he expressed. “We’ll want to hear the public’s comment on this and obviously, we’ll address those concerns as those comments come.”

McDonough said the decision to begin the process of allowing transgender military service was a unanimous decision by the Veteran Affairs governing body. He estimated the process would take about two years before the policy was fully implemented.

 

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