Editor’s Note: Allison Hope is a writer whose work has been featured by The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, Slate and elsewhere. The views expressed here are the author’s. Read more opinion on CNN.
The Trump administration yanked the rug out from under more than a million Americans on Friday by removing protections that prohibit discrimination in health care against transgender patients. This move – announced on the four-year anniversary of a shooting at a gay nightclub in Orland, Florida, in which 49 people died – is cruel and unusual punishment from an administration that chooses to represent a small and extreme fringe pushing to further marginalize the already disadvantaged.
While the move was no surprise – Trump first proposed removing the protections last spring – the timing feels like a poison arrow through the heart. It is particularly painful during Pride Month (and amid a global pandemic), during which millions of Americans have taken to the streets to speak out against systems of power that continue to suppress our freedoms, to our peril.
Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, passed under former President Barack Obama in 2010, prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded health programs and activities; a 2016 rule interpreted this as including discrimination on the basis of gender identity and termination of pregnancy. The Trump administration is now rolling back that interpretation. Doing so will embolden some health care providers to turn away or deny care or coverage to patients simply because of who they are, or because they are seeking an abortion. It is a gargantuan step backwards on the moral arc of justice and a blight on the egregious record of Donald Trump.
Transgender people, who will be affected by this change, already face rampant discrimination in health care and indeed across all facets of civic life, including housing and employment. The new rule means transgender people can be turned away when seeking routine or basic care – not just transition-related treatment. A doctor or hospital could cite religious beliefs, for example, in denying care to someone whose identity doesn’t comport with their personal world view, and health insurance companies could deny coverage for certain procedures, leaving already vulnerable individuals needing medical care with no legal pathway to seek justice.
Discrimination and abuse at the hands of those in power is nothing new to LGBTQ people, unfortunately. What’s most deflating is that we had a decade with some relief, including this health care policy that provided some air cover for us to seek medical care with a bit less anxiety in our hearts.
Way to hit us when we’re down, Trump. While the religious extremists are likely popping champagne corks over the rule change, there are many more of us tonight who are holding one another close with heavy hearts. We’re mourning the LGBTQ lives lost to Covid-19, to homophobia and hate, to police brutality and to a system that continues to attack us because of who we are and who we love.
We know there’s more devastation yet to come. The Supreme Court is whispers away from deciding whether LGBTQ workers are covered by anti-discrimination law.
There are many ways to help honor the rich and diverse LGBTQ identities and experiences that contribute to making America the great nation it is— while also realizing its potential to be greater still. Rainbow cupcakes, for instance, are a perfectly fine gesture. Inclusive laws and policies are too. Stripping us of our rights is not one of them.