OP ED: WHY TRANSGENDER AMERICANS NEED PROTECTIONS

You may have seen the latest salvo from the federal government on transgender Americans. This time, it’s the administration protecting healthcare workers who refuse medical care to transgender individuals.

I’m not only going to argue that transgender Americans need protections. I’m going to give you examples of why. I’ll share stories, shared with me, of people who have sought care. Some of them are outright horror stories. Some of them will, hopefully, shock you and give you information that may help you look at the issue differently. I’m also going to argue a point which I don’t expect will change your viewpoint, and you may not agree with. But it’s the stories with which I hope you’ll learn something you didn’t already know.

Firstly (here’s where I don’t expect I will change your viewpoint), I argue that healthcare is indeed a right. It’s a right given by our creator. If you’re a Christian, surely you will remember the stories where Jesus referred to children as “the least of these” and where Jesus surrounded himself with people who were disadvantaged, and sometimes outcast.

Jesus never wavered in his intent to heal those outcasts. In many ways, he was the first “do no harm” healer. He never asked for money, or anything else, in exchange for giving these people their health. If we are truly to be Christians, or followers of Christ, each of us are called upon to heal those around us, without compensation, in any way we’re able.

The medical community in American differs widely from those outside this nation’s borders. In a nutshell, it’s much easier (and much, much less costly) for people to obtain healthcare elsewhere. Much of the healthcare expense is from huge corporations who care only about making a profit. The shareholders of these corporations care little for individuals. They care about profits. They invest their money in hopes of gaining the largest profit possible. There is NOTHING wrong with making a profit. But I believe Jesus would have something to say about making a profit at the expense of others.

Secondly, there are the many stories of people who come to me with outright horror stories of trying to obtain healthcare. In many cases, this care is desperately needed, and ordered by their healthcare providers. Insurance companies are largely to blame here for denying claims, but so are hospitals and other healthcare entities who employ healthcare workers.

You may or may not believe gender dysphoria is real. I lived with it for way too many years. BUT IT’S CURABLE!

You read that correctly. Gender dysphoria is a treatable, and even curable condition. I received psychological and psychiatric care that helped me reduce my gender dysphoria symptoms. Is it all gone? No. But there are things I haven’t yet done to alleviate the symptoms completely. I know what they are, and I hope to receive the care I need.

There are transgender individuals who desperately need the care I’ve received to be whole and live happy, productive lives in society. They literally can NOT get to that point, unless they receive proper care. Every individual is different, with unique circumstances. This care needs to be individualized for each transgender person. I know of many, many transgender people who can’t find mental healthcare because they can’t afford it, or can’t find a provider who has experience treating transgender persons. Some end up going to a provider who says they treat transgender people, only to find out they have an agenda to use incredibly harmful conversion therapy to convince a transgender person they can be “normal” and live as their assigned gender, if only they try hard enough.

Believe me, I tried harder than I’ve ever tried at anything else in my life, to live as a man. But I was never male. I’ve always been female, and no mere mortal is going to be able to change my mind into that of a man. I’ve heard ALL the arguments offered, in an attempt to dissuade me and other transgender people, from obtaining peace. I even believed them for a time.

I’ve heard from many transgender people on Medicaid who can’t even get their hormones covered! I would not be alive today, if it weren’t for the right hormones coursing through my veins. Having the correct hormones, at the right levels, helped me regain control of my life, as well as a sense of peace, security and productivity. I can’t imagine what would happen to me if those hormones were snatched away from me.

I’ve heard from trans women who can’t get their insurance to pay for hair removal. Can you imagine my face with facial hair still? I needed painful hair removal (and it’s ongoing) to keep me from having to shave every day. It’s degrading and embarrassing to have to shave, if you’re a trans woman.

There are women who desperately need gender confirmation surgery. Again, everyone is different and not every woman needs these procedures! But some desperately need it. That they can’t, is clear proof that we have our morals confused in this country. Some vile people, many of whom claim to be Christians, are loathe to hear of taxes going, in any way, to facilitate these procedures and care. Many of these same people would rather wipe me and others from the face of the Earth. They have the misconception that we’re a danger to others, or that we will hurt society in other ways. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Finally, I will share with you that I have been humiliated, on more than one occasion, in my pursuit of basic healthcare, simply because I’m transgender. I’ve even been placed in danger when seeking care. I’ve had doctors simply refuse to care for me. I’ve been deliberately humiliated because I sought care, and have been treated like a second class citizen and worse. I’ve been deliberately misgendered, in a open waiting room, and otherwise have been outed. What would have happened if one of these unscrupulous villains would have been present? I would have, most assuredly, been assaulted when leaving the facility.

There was a time, not too long ago, when I lived in fear of being hurt. It got to the point where I couldn’t think of anything else. I received threats from people on social media who vowed to hurt me. It paralyzed me, and I wasn’t able to even walk down the hallway from my apartment to empty my trash. My friends helped me. I certainly wasn’t able to leave my apartment to go to work or out in public. It was a very dark time, and it took several professionals working together to get me to a place where I felt safe again.

So, the position of this government that transgender people’s protections mean less than a few people who would actively do us harm, is unethical at best, and immoral in practice. We need to come back to our roots as an accepting and loving nation. We used to be. We welcomed foreigners who wanted to settle here and contribute to our society. We also used to open our arms widely to care for neighbors less fortunate and in need. Let’s return to those values and guarantee people the care they need to be productive, happy, and secure citizens.

Trust me, I’m a journalist!

You won’t see much, if any, opinion in my writing. It’s a conscious decision. I do write about my own experiences, but I try to do so in such a way that it doesn’t create a conflict of interest for my journalism. I don’t claim to be without bias. We are all a product of our environment and upbringing. As a journalist, it’s not my job to be unbiased. It is to recognize that bias and compensate for it. Sadly, my profession sometimes seems hijacked in this regard.

Even as recently as two decades ago, viewers could reliably take the things television anchors said as fact. But back in the 1990’s, something began to change. With the advent of entire cable channels and radio networks to deliver news with a slant, audiences tune in to seek validation for what they already believe to be true. People are consuming, in large part, to reaffirm their thinking.

A good portion of the people you see on cable news shows are not journalists. Surprising? Not if you’re in the news business. Often, you’ll see commentators invited onto a show to help us understand the news, put information into context, or to clarify the position of a politician. Sometimes, even the host of a show is not a journalist. They aren’t there to give balance to the thoughts and ideas guests speak. Think Fox News’ Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly, MSNBC’s Al Sharpton and Joe Scarborough, HLN’s Nancy Grace and Dr Drew. As much as we love them, these people are not in journalist roles. These hosts and guests can often be heard giving opinions. Some viewers are turn on “news” cable channels to learn news and fact, but they’re presented with something less.

It’s no wonder trust in journalism has eroded to an all-time low. In a recent study by Media Insight Project, just 6% of those polled say they have a lot of confidence in the media to get it right. To this journalist who deeply values the trust of the people she serves, that is the most alarming thing I’ve read since last year’s poll. I began this career with dreams of informing people through facts, which when put into context would allow them to make informed decisions when they vote and make other decisions in their daily lives.

The second most alarming thing I’ve read lately, was earlier in the week when I read this post from Eric Newton. In a nutshell, it says journalists have far less power now to be able to go to court to force government to hand over documents and information we feel is in the public interest. You might think that’s a good thing, but it’s not. Sure, there are many things published these days which serve curiosity, not the public interest. But there’s something very important at stake.

If you’ve been a young journalist who’s been mentored by me, you’ve heard me say these words, many times. “Our first priority as journalists is to hold elected, appointed and powerful people accountable for what they do and say. Ours is the only profession specifically protected by the Constitution.” Admittedly, we now do a poor job of accomplishing that lofty goal, but the responsibility remains and it’s up to real journalists to hold people in power accountable, including those in government and guests on shows.

Many times in my career, I’ve fought doggedly to obtain and confirm information that was, and is, incredibly important to the public. There have been times when I spent days, weeks and months badgering gatekeepers to get information that is important, and to which the public has a right. Knowing that the entire industry is less likely to go to court to enforce open records and meetings laws and the Freedom of Information Act, is frightening for many reasons beyond my own career. Those laws allow journalists to accomplish my number one goal.

So why don’t people trust us? The poll says it’s accuracy. Quoting the Associated Press story I linked above, “Nearly 90 percent of Americans say it’s extremely or very important that the media get their facts correct, according to the study. About 4 in 10 say they can remember a specific incident that eroded their confidence in the media, most often one that dealt with accuracy or a perception that it was one-sided.”

Print newsroom staffs have been cut in half several times in the last 15-20 years, and television newsrooms haven’t been spared either. There is a constant fear in many newsrooms of coming into work and being called into a meeting with a box of tissues on the table, the sure sign that there’s a reorganization or round of layoffs in the works. Business is business, but how can a small percentage of the journalists who used to fill newsrooms seats possibly accomplish the accuracy for which we used to be respected?

The state of our journalism union is dire! I see far too many young people being hired, no longer to the intern positions they would have been just two decades ago, but with the responsibility for writing and editing news. In many cases, they haven’t even graduated. I see too many of my competent and experienced, but now disillusioned colleagues leaving for public relations and communications positions. The very people who would have mentored young journalists 10 years ago are no longer around. It’s left our profession struggling to stay afloat under the weight of an expectation that has only increased with the dawn of the digital age. Gone are the days of Woodward and Bernstein. How sad is it that such a tremendous staple of our history can’t possibly be maintained? Investigations of the likes of Deep Throat are now dusty relics relegated to the back of the museum.

If I sound really, really depressed right about now, I’m not. I’m very concerned, but I’m also excited for the possibility to gain back the trust of the American Public. We (journalists) must do better! We have to convince our bosses to be willing to go after corrupt public officials who refuse to give the public information it has the right to see. And journalists have to be willing to fight harder to get that information. I have to be willing to fight harder. Yes, the finger is pointed squarely in my face. I am passionate about what I do, but sometimes I’m just as guilty of letting life get in the way of my calling. Knowing that 94% of the population has no trust in what I write is a not-so-gentle reminder that I, we, need to rededicate our journalist selves to fighting the way we used to, in order to accomplish that which sits solely on our shoulders.

The political season is in full swing. Investigative reporting on candidates is almost nowhere to be seen. There are a few print and web outlets that are doing good work, but I haven’t seen anything similar on television. Yes, I’ve seen a few hosts briefly attempt to nail down candidates on exactly where they stand on a specific issue, but it’s not enough. Nearly always, the attempt is hampered by the next commercial break that looms mere seconds away.

Why aren’t we digging? Why aren’t we holding these major candidates accountable for what they are doing and saying? Trump confines journalists to actual pens at events! That’s unprecedented, and many in the general public don’t know it. He commonly tells those who attend his events that the media is biased and dirty, so attendees think it’s only right to keep us at bay. Hillary isn’t allowing opportunities for journalists to ask her hard questions, or to even witness fundraising speeches, where even President Obama allows journalists to sit and listen. At least Trump calls into morning shows and exposes himself to possible scrutiny.

There are many things journalists could be doing that we’re not, but there’s a flip side. I alluded to it earlier. On the other side of the camera/web site/newspaper, sits the public. Don’t they want the truth? We’ve all heard the phrase “perception is reality.” The public itself has to do its part — to be open to facts that aren’t congruent with their deeply held beliefs. Can we get through to them? The first step is to try.

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