Transgender health care should be about public health, not politics

On Sunday, the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) will strip Medicaid coverage for gender-affirming care for 9,000 transgender Florida residents. As a transgender woman, the thought of health care being ripped away from my community makes me sick. It wasn’t too long ago that I was on black market hormones myself due to the inability to access gender affirming care. I remember well the fear of not knowing what I was taking. The dangers they posed still haunt me to this day. Isn’t it clear the devastating damage this will do to an already marginalized community – or is that the point?

As a proud, native Floridian, I have always heard that phrase “Free Florida.” But free for whom? Never before have we seen such a politicization of the transgender experience. Radical politicians like Ron DeSantis are strong-arming the legislature and government agencies to further their political ambitions. The ban on transgender youth in sports, fueled by bigoted language and the demonization of children. The “don’t say gay” law driven by fear mongering for the transgender community. Recent memos from the Department of Education and the Department of Health seem to be putting forward a government position that transgender people aren’t even real. These tactics of demonizing, fear-mongering and spreading misinformation about a community already marginalized as a political vote-getting weapon are unfortunate – and dangerous.

It is true that the experiences of transgender people are not widely understood. Many people have preconceptions and biases even though they have never met a transgender person. But it’s important to remember that transgender people are people. We have hopes, dreams, aspirations and fears. We deserve to live full, happy lives. We are your neighbors, family members, colleagues and friends. If you don’t understand our community, ask questions. Make friends with a transgender person. They do research. I’m listening. I study. We deserve respect like everyone else. Many of the same people who are pushing for a ban on gender-affirming care have never met someone who would be directly affected by it.

I’m sure we can all agree: healthcare should remain between healthcare providers and their patients, not politicians. The nation’s major medical and mental health associations recognize the critical importance of gender-affirming care. What we see here is not public health; it’s politics.

Health care is a basic human right and should be available to everyone. Without access to healthcare, we will continue to see rising levels of anxiety, depression and suicide in the transgender community. The US Transgender Survey (USTS), the largest survey of transgender people in the US to date, found that 81.7% of respondents reported having seriously considered suicide at some point in their lives, and 40.4 % report having attempted suicide at some point in their lives.

We are in unprecedented times. Basic human rights such as access to healthcare and bodily autonomy are being denied across the country. I long for a world that sees people as people and celebrates our differences and unique needs. I want you to imagine something for a moment: access to health care is taken away from you or your family within a few days. How would that feel? How would you navigate this? That feeling you get just imagining it is a reality for more than 9,000 transgender Florida residents on Sunday, August 21st.

Nicole Parker is the Director of Transgender Equality for Equality Florida.

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