BRO Shines a Light on the Face of Healthcare Discrimination

transBy Leela Ginelle, PQ Monthly

Basic Rights Oregon’s Trans Justice program will soon unveil a new video series titled “The Face of Healthcare Discrimination.” These videos will feature transgender Oregonians telling their stories of being denied health care based on their gender identity, as well as doctors and policy experts speaking about the importance and cost effectiveness of ensuring health care equality for the trans community.

Trans Justice Organizer Peter Dakota Molof sees sharing these stories via video as vital to building support among Oregonians around this issue.

“Unfortunately, many people outside of the transgender community are unaware of the barriers transgender people face,” Molof says. “Knowing a transgender person and talking about those lived barriers is the single biggest difference in people who actively support transgender people and those who do not. This is why Oregonians telling their stories is so important.”

“The Face of Healthcare Discrimination” comes on the heels of the Trans Justice program’s successful “The Benefits of Equality” campaign, which produced toolkits designed to help employees advocate for inclusive care within their workplaces.

“’The Benefits of Equality’ is a comprehensive resource with model policies, testimony from transgender people, and even estimates of what equally covering transgender people would cost – the good news is, almost nothing!” Molof says.

To date over 1,000 toolkits have been distributed in print and nearly 600 have been downloaded online.

The groundbreaking National Trans Discrimination Survey conducted in 2011 by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality found that 22% of trans Oregonians reported being denied health care, simply because they are trans. This included preventive screenings and treatments that insurance companies often cover for non-transgender people.

Molof says BRO is actively tackling this kind of discrimination.

“We are working to remove health care exclusions from public insurance, such as Oregon Health Plan, as well as continuing to work with the state’s insurance division to ensure that private insurance companies treat transgender people fairly in their policies,” Molof says.

Transpeople face many social hardships outside of healthcare. 90% of trans adults have reported experiencing workplace harassment, one in four earn less than $10,000 a year, and one in five have experienced homelessness. While insurance reform will not remedy these problems, Molof says BRO does work to address them.

“We are working to educate community members about their rights under the Oregon Equality Act of 2007, which protects people from unfair discrimination based on gender identity and presentation,” Molof says. “By ending the discrimination people face in housing and employment, we can disrupt the cycle of barriers that increase rates of health inequity in transgender communities.”

Disrupting the cycle of barriers is the goal of BRO’s “The Face of Healthcare Discrimination” campaign, as well. It’s a chance for people who don’t know a transgender person in their lives (a recent focus group survey found that only one in ten do) to hear their stories.

“It’s our hope that these videos will reach a wide audience of transgender people, our allies, our families, businesses, and policy makers,” Molof says. “We will be highlighting the videos on our website and on social media so that they can be a local and national resource, facilitating conversations that lead to lasting changes in the way transgender people are treated.”