They still can’t quite seem to get there. And it is because of the very same thing I have been talking about to legislators down here for the last five years. It can be summed up this way: If you are going to legislate about us, at least first get to know us! Seems a simple concept. Yet, every time LGBTQ legislation, and specifically, trans legislation is drafted in North Carolina….it is always done without any trans actually at the table.

There are, of course, three anti-trans bills currently in the pipeline here in North Carolina…and there are also four pro-LGBTQ bills. I’ll speak of the anti-trans bills in a different article, and three of the four pro-LGBTQ bills in yet another. This article needs to focus on what I would call the Omnibus Bill…the Equality Act of North Carolina, if you will. Except it falls short.

Officially, it is HB 450 (SB 396 is the identical bill in the Senate) – titled, An Act To Protect All North Carolinians Against Discrimination In All Walks Of Life. Who the hell comes up with the names for these bills? Try to make a neat acronym out of that one, willya?

OK, so first, it should be All Areas Of Life….”walks of life” refers to the various communities that make up what former NYC Mayor David Dinkins called “the beautiful mosaic that is America.” Or something to that effect, anyway…I do not remember the exact verbiage.

To the credit of the bill authors, it is pretty comprehensive. It seeks to outlaw discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, age, disability, sex, marital status, familial status, sexual orientation, gender identity, military or veteran status and genetic information. I do notice the absence of gender expression.

It seeks to protect against discrimination in the following major activities of life: Housing, Employment, Public Accommodations, Credit, Insurance, Education, and Jury Service – and seeks to align the various patchwork of municipal-level and County-level rights bills into compliance with this bill. Have you noticed the gaping hole yet??

OK, I will make it easy for you. Healthcare. Nothing in this bill would prevent discrimination in healthcare, which seems to be the latest rage of the past few years, what with Trump trying to rewrite Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act to allow discrimination by doctors, to one of the anti-trans bills also currently in the pipeline in North Carolina…and these are not the only attempts by various legislative bodies to essentially turn a person’s LGBTQ status into a de facto death sentence!

Ostensibly, the bills are designed and intended to allow doctors to “opt out” of participation in abortion-related care, or gender-confirming procedures. And if they were so worded, I would even support those bills! Let’s face it…I do not want a potentially-hostile doctor coming at ME with a knife when I am unconscious!

The truth of the matter is that most all doctors who perform abortions or gender-confirming procedures – perform those procedures to the exclusion of almost all other services. The provide exclusively, or near-exclusively, only those procedures. And in order to perform any of these procedures, one must undergo specialized training. One does not undertake training to perform procedures to which they are morally opposed. So the entire stated premise of these bills are bogus.

The problem is that the bills are not so succinct, and my guess is that the true intention is to allow doctors to refuse to treat LGBTQ people for any condition whatsoever, at any time…under the color and protection of the law. In short…the intent is to allow doctors to murder LGBTQ people by refusal of treatment, and get away with it.

YES…I dare to accuse this. I dare to accuse this, because these legislators have made no bones about their distaste for people in my community. I dare to accuse this, because I remember what it felt like, five years ago, to have State legislators standing on the floor of MY State House…implying that all transgender people were pedophiles and predators…and doing everything they could to rile up, and encourage vigilantism. I remember what it felt like, to have Officials of my State, charged with protection of me, as a citizen of this state…instead hanging bullseyes on our backs!

I will even go so far as to suggest that, per capita, there are more Republican politicians on sex-offender registries, nationwide…than there are transgender women. I’ll also note that most transgender women on such registries are there because they were busted protstituing themselves…after this society closed the doors of traditional and legal employment in their faces! What were these women to do?? Curl up and die? They did what they had to do to survive, and for that, they are forever branded…and the downward spiral continues. Somewhere before I have heard it said that accusations from narcissistic authoritarians were in fact confessions. I believe that.

But I digress. Let’s get back to healthcare, and how it affects my community. Denial of even routine care to transgender people is so common we have a tongue-in-cheek name for it “Transgender Broken Arm Syndrome.” This is where every condition you have is blamed on your being transgender, or being on hormones, and then doctors refuse to treat them, and insurance companies refuse to pay for the services if we DO get them. One of the most egregious cases of this is documented in the HBO documentary “Southern Comfort” (in which I play a cameo role, incidentally…if you blink you will miss it, even if you know where to look – but the 27 year old me is handing out registration packets behind a desk in a hotel lobby.) Robert Eads, the subject of the documentary, is a gentleman I was blessed to have met and got to know before he died of ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer that twenty different oncologists refused to treat him for. In the end, the only thing that would have saved his life was a total hysterectomy, which would have been given to a cisgender woman…but the insurance argued that is would be “aiding and abetting his quest to become a man” and refused coverage….and Robert died. So there is history here.

In 2015, the second US Trans Study was conducted by NCTE (The National Center for Transgender Equality) – and it found, among other things, that nearly 30 percent of transgender respondents (there were 28,000 Respondents, and in the interest of full disclosure, I was one) reported having at some time been denied care at a doctor’s office that would have been rendered if we were not transgender. So we aren’t even talking about refusals for transgender-related care, e.g. hormones…we are talking things like diabetes, broken bones, colds, etc.

Additionally, the study found that 12 percent of Respondents reported discrimination at the hands of EMT’s…and two percent reported having in fact been sexually assaulted in a doctor’s office. Sadly, I am one of that two percent, and I spoke out about it for publication in Rewire.News. In fact, in my case, the sexual assault, and refusal of treatment came IN THE SAME VISIT! Imagine it…I got a religious-based refusal of treatment…and sexually assaulted in the same office visit! Talk about one-stop shopping!!

Now we are still in the midst of a global pandemic of deadly disease the likes of which most living humans have never seen…and we are actually talking about restricting healthcare access to some people, because of an immutable characteristic!! I just recently received my second COVID shot. Up until that point, I was living as a virtual hermit, afraid to come out of my house, for fear of contracting COVID, being placed in an ICU…with no control over which doctor would be assigned my case, and fearing that might lead to me being de-prioritized for treatment based on my trans status…or flat-out refused care and allowed to die, alone, gasping for breath, just because I am transgender. Imagine it. If you can. How would you like to live with that kind of fear? How would you like a loved one to have to fear this?

And there’s plenty of implications on the other side of the pandemic. Imagine if I were to drop of a heart attack in a mall somewhere, and be transported to the nearest hospital…and refused treatment…and the denial/delay of treatment were to cause my death or serious complications. And that is before we consider the trust that exists between a doctor and patient…which is at risk every year when you have to sign up for new coverage, not knowing if your new plan will contain the doctor you trust! Now imagine what that is like every year if you are transgender and the victim of sexual assault at the hands of a doctor!! It’s an annual trauma I must face and relive every year….because I am transgender. And that is “just how it is here in America.” Where’s the outrage? I hate to say it, but, from where I stand, it feels like, when every other minority in this country cries…we hear them – but when we trans cry…we cry alone, and nobody hears us.

Maybe this is how change happens. I don’t know. This bill was in fact sent to The Rules Committee – which, in North Carolina, is where bills go to die, so I do not actually expect any action on this bill in this Session. Which might actually not be so bad, given the giant healthcare hole that exists in this bill.

I have a standing commitment to a meeting with my own State Representative after the Session, about how to go forward with pro-LGBTQ legislation, between myself and a few other members of our community, so that all voices are heard. I actually have my Representative’s personal cell phone number. We will see what comes out of the meeting, I will report back after it happens. In the meantime, I maintain what I said at the start of this article – if legislators are going to legislate about our community, the very least they can do is first get to know our community!

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funksands
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Angela thank you so much for your perspective. My trans daughter also has an intellectual disability, and has a very high level of fear of interaction with anyone without a parent present. She’s very worried that someone will not like her and attack and kill her. Reading and hearing the righteous rage in your voice as you tackle a segment of society that wishes my daughter would disappear gives me a lot of hope. I admire you and look forward to your update from you discussion with your legislator. Anything that you learn of use to the rest of us is very appreciated.

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First, on this not-so-important and ancillary thing, I agree that whoever titles bills usually does a poor job. Even if it isn’t intuitive, I’ve seen “walks of life” most often used to describe people in different professions as opposed to different lifestyles.

As to the more pertinent issues, I strongly oppose the exclusion of health care from the bill but wonder if this is the mess that is created when a legislature with bigoted members decides that they will pass what they can and omit what they know will be blocked. This is a defective way of working for the people and while I haven’t really explored the best approach to term limits, perhaps if there were shorter term limits, politicians would make decisions more often about doing the right thing instead of having the specter of re-election haunting every vote they take.

The bigger picture is, that this shouldn’t have to be done piecemeal, state by state. Like all civil rights, this should be a federal law especially because some states have such bigots in power that it would never pass there and people would continue to go unprotected (as black Americans, women, etc. have for centuries).

While outreach should be a mission for all representatives, the impetus should be on them to become informed and educated about the lives and views of their constituency, it more often falls on the people to be more aggressive about educating their elected officials about policies that are needed to help and protect them.

I hope your dealings with your State Representative are fruitful. Additionally, the alternative route would be in 2022, for Dems to come out to keep control of The House and increase their majority in The Senate so they could kill the filibuster and pass many urgently needed laws including protecting the civil rights of all Americans, including LGBTQ Americans of course, without prejudice or limitations.

This is simple and basic fairness and respect. It is this generation’s responsibility to sweep away this renewed Trumpist “pride” in bigotry. They must be steamrolled by the majority of people in this country who do appreciate that all people are created equal and deserve equal protections under the law.