Transgender Michigan Calls for Action

BY KATE OPALEWSKI

Rachel Crandall, executive director of Transgender Michigan said, "A lot of people in my community are really afraid." She points to the number of transgender people who are worried about their civil right's protections after the sweeping Republican election victory. More so now as the Trump administration revoked guidance barring discrimination against transgender youth in schools, which validates that they have no intention of protecting the rights of the LGBTQ community, particularly LGBTQ young people.

Trump's conservative cabinet is likely to roll back the progress the LGBTQ community has made in terms of policies and protections. This causes a great deal of concern for transgender people that continue to encounter barriers despite the government's best efforts under former president Obama to protect them.

Healthcare Concerns

Crandall said what transgender people fear most is the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. And while many service providers in Michigan are prohibited from discriminating against LGBTQ people in their care and service (those that are federally-funded or who have an explicit policy), few have been attentive to the environment in which their LGBTQ clients, customers and patients are being served.

According to "When Health Care Isn't Caring" by Lambda Legal, 56 percent of LGB people and 70 percent of T people have experienced one or more of the following:

- refusal of care

- refusal to touch client/patient or using excessive precautions

- use of harsh or abusive language

- health condition/status is blamed on their sexual orientaOon or gender identity.

- racial bias increases maltreatment dramatically for transgender people of color.

Further, 8 percent of LGB and 27 percent of T individuals reported being outright refused care. An additional 19 percent of those with HIV were refused care. Regardless of the legality of discrimination and mistreatment, these things happen in the moment by untrained staff and without an advocate, LGBTQ people are vulnerable, which can result in severe health-related consequences.

Crandall highlights a few of these consequences.

"Transgender people choose to undergo hormone replacement therapy to more closely align their bodies with their identities," she said, noting that transgender people face significant job loss and job fragility and, therefore, a higher rate of uninsurance. Obamacare expanded Medicaid to cover individuals with incomes at less than 133 percent of the poverty level.

With little to no money, she said many transgender people will abruptly stop this process, which is "dangerous" and has the potential to cause various emotional and physical problems.

"We're worried that's what will happen when people can no longer afford to purchase them," she said. "The people who are able to get hormones might not be able to go to the doctor for any monitoring of these hormones. When you're on them, the doctor needs to pay attention to hormone levels and make sure they aren't having a negative affect on any parts of your body."

Crandall said she is concerned that more transgender people will try to purchase hormones in the bathroom at the gay bar or on the street, and when you buy anything on the street, she said, "You don't know what's really in it, do you?"

Under the ACA currently, insurers who cover mental health conditions cannot exclude coverage of treatment for gender dysphoria. The Act also opened the door for insurance companies to pay for gender reassignment operations. Both of which are in jeopardy under the Trump administration as is the defunding of Planned Parenthood which Crandall said will affect a lot of female-to-male individuals.

As the transgender community anxiously awaits ACA repeal and replacement with dread hope, TGMI provides on their website a list of medical professionals who are welcoming and willing to help.

Take Action

As the oldest, active transgender organization in Michigan, Crandall said she believes she and her wife, Susan Crocker - who established the organization with her in 1997 - are responsible for educating the community.

During a recent speaking engagement, Crandall said many people asked her what they can do to help.

"Well, you could start by having a conversation at work or with your family and educate them regarding trans issues," she said noting that one population - butch or masculine of center lesbians - are really suffering as a result of the political bathroom debate.

"Many of them are being shamed, harassed or thrown out of restrooms, too. So it's not only a trans issue, it's a whole LGBTQ issue and that's one thing we're trying to get people to understand."

More local activism is needed and Crandall plans to shed light on this during the International Transgender Day of Visibility on March 31.

Since 2009, she has been working hard to establish a worldwide coalition via Facebook, reaching the transgender community and its allies in places as far as Russia and Africa.

"This gives me a lot of hope and it also gives us all a network. It gives us all power to work together and not only as individuals," said Crandall.

"Which is what this day is all about - for transgender people to visibly celebrate being transgender. Also for allies to show their support for the transgender community. The first step to empowerment is visibility."

TGMI has more than 10 chapters throughout the state including metro Detroit, Flint, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Jackson, Lakeshore, Lansing, Marquette, North Michigan, Port Huron, Sault Ste. Marie, Traverse City, Mt. Pleasant, Midland, Bay City, Saginaw, and some rural areas that are often isolated from support groups in major cities.

For more information about Transgender Michigan at 23211 Woodward Ave., #309, Ferndale, visit http://www.transgendermichigan.org/ or call the organization's help line at 855-345-TGMI.

International Transgender Day of Visibility Events

Flagship Event

March 29, 6-8:30 p.m.

Five 15, 515 S. Washington Ave., Royal Oak

"Visibility & Activism: A Showcase of Transgender Activism" Gallery Show

April 1 - May 27

Opening Reception, April 6, 7-9 p.m.

Pittman-Puckett Art Gallery

Affirmations, 290 W. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale


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