United Nations Reflections: Transgender Rights Abroad
Last week, Evan Davidoff and I were invited to the United Nations to represent CBST at Leadership in the Fight Against Homophobia, a part of the United Nations celebration of the 64th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Read a synopsis of the event by Evan on our Social Justice Blog.
The panel was both informative and deeply moving, providing us with an understanding of the status of LGBT people in various countries. We heard from people who are still struggling to fight against the criminalization of homosexuality, unable to be open about their identity without risk of imprisonment.
I personally was most deeply affected by hearing from Blas Radi, the first person in Argentina to change his birth certificate and national identity papers to reflect his gender identity. He was one of the drafters of the gender identity recognition law that passed earlier this year. Recognized as one of the most progressive laws for transgender people in the world, the law allows people to legally alter their gender marker without a psychiatric diagnosis or surgery. The law also requires medical practitioners to provide free hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery for anyone who wants it, including those under the age of 18.
Effectively, the law establishes that transgender people are equals and that no one should be a gatekeeper preventing transgender people from transitioning or determining who can or cannot transition.
As a transgender person who can't afford gender reassignment surgery, and, living in the United States, can't change my legal gender marker without such surgery, I was moved and impressed by Argentina's progressive law.
Here, in the United States, transgender people need approval from a psychologist to get hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery. The psychologists that specialize in gender identity often aren't covered by insurance, making this requirement a big financial burden. Most health insurance plans don't cover hormone therapy or gender reassignment surgery, again placing a large financial burden entirely on the transgender individual. While some employers, such as Google, pay directly for transgender-related health care for their employees in the absence of adequate health care plans, many employees from other companies and organizations remain unable to medically transition due to the cost. Furthermore, those who haven't received gender reassignment surgery are unable to change their gender marker, in a process that only recognizes gender identity for a select portion of the transgender population.
While we are much ahead of the countries that criminalize homosexuality, LGBT people still face discrimination of all forms in the United States. We should look at the gender identity recognition law in Argentina as an inspiration - hopefully one day people around the world will be afforded equal recognition regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. It is up to us - activists, with a vision of equality - to push for truly progressive legislation, for legislation that establishes all of us as equals.