I’m Transgender, and My Right to Health Care Is the Reason I’m Voting in 2020

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Vote like your life depends on it. For many, this isn’t just a rousing call to action—it’s real life. In this series, people from different jobs, backgrounds, and viewpoints share the impact this election will have on them, and the exact reason they’re voting in 2020. Because politics and wellness can’t be separated, especially this year.

A doctor could refuse me life-saving medical treatment and it wouldn’t be murder. Why? Because the current administration has made it legal for health-care professionals to refuse care to transgender individuals. It's as straightforward as that.

That’s why I’m voting in this election. If Trump gets re-elected, I will have no right to medical care, even if it would save my life. No one should have to live with that hanging over their head.

Trump’s attack on transgender health care

In June 2020, the Trump Administration reversed Obama-era regulations that prevented discrimination against patients based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Instead, “sex discrimination” now only applies to sex assigned at birth.

Many supporters of President Donald Trump use ill-informed understanding of biological sex to justify the erasure of transgender people. However, scientists have affirmed that biology is much more complicated than just male or female.

When it comes to biology, things like hormone balance, chromosomes and neurology can differ wildly, even among cisgender individuals. That’s not even discussing the complexity of chromosomal sex, the process that determines biological sex. (If you’ve ever heard of XX or XY, that’s chromosomal sex. While most humans have two sex chromosomes, some have three, while others have one or more that’s split.)

A gap in federal and local protections

Technically, this doesn’t mean there aren’t any protections. Instead, it’ll fall to the states to decide on what protections we can have. My state is a key example of why this is problematic.

There are no legal guidelines for getting your gender marker changed in Utah. The word gender doesn’t appear in relevant laws. If you want to get your gender marker changed, you end up playing judge roulette. Some people get their petitions granted quickly. Others are denied and then live in legal limbo, and are forced to use documents that don’t match their physical appearance or identity.

A doctor could look at their license and turn them away with no federal recourse.

Meanwhile, in Oregon, there’s an option to choose a gender-neutral marker at the DMV. It’s a sharp contrast to the state of Utah. Transgender individuals there aren’t subject to the fear of being turned away at a clinic because their gender expression doesn’t match their license or government ID.

Sure, one state might be supportive, but what if a transgender individual travels to a state that doesn’t offer them protection? They could face a life-threatening situation and not receive treatment. That’s why having federal protections matters.

What to do next

Denying health care is just one of the latest things this presidency has done to attack transgender individuals. The Trump Administration has also enacted a ban on transgender military service, removed Title VII and Title IX protections for transgender students, and deleted all LGBTQ+ language on federal websites. This is not a one-time misstep, but an ongoing attack.

Given the history of abuse by the current administration, for many who don't want to see these abuses continue, the answer is voting for former Vice President Joe Biden. I don't see either Biden, nor his running mate Kamala Harris, as perfect. They’ve both blocked bills and actions that would have helped transgender individuals in the past, like Harris’ legal briefs denying gender reassignment surgery to inmates. However, they’ve since started advocating for trans rights, with Biden running on a plan to advance pro-LGBTQ+ equality. Advocating for more trans rights and protections can happen when they're in office, but the important thing for me—and so many trans individuals—is to have baseline protection already.

That's why I'm voting for Biden. But it's also why I'm making sure I vote accordingly for my local representatives, too. Because now, it’s more important than ever to vote in your local elections. If federal protections are gone, then it’s up to us to elect governors, district attorneys, and mayors who will create and enforce necessary protections.

If you are transgender, or an ally, voting in this election is a matter of life and death. And not just nationally, but on a local scale, too.

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