Thousands of people can now get access to life saving gender treatment thanks to a change in insurance law in the US.
Jenn Brewer, a transgender teenager, was bullied relentlessly in school for her gender identity. Teachers used her male birth name, and class mates called her “tranny.”
The bullying was so bad that Jenn tried to take her own life at just 13 years old, reported AP, and this wasn’t helped by the fact she couldn’t access counselling.
Jenn was distraught over the experience, but was offered no help because her father’s military insurance policy didn’t cover her private counselling fees.
The insurance also denied the teen access to hormone blockers. But from Monday, Jenn and thousand of other transgender people on military medical experience will no longer have this problem.
In June it was announced that transgender service members would no longer be banned from the military – meaning that health benefits extend beyond active-duty military to 7 million retirees and children of service members.
The new policy falls in place alongside other changes made by the Obama administration to improve the lives on trans people.
However, gender reassignment surgery is not available for extended family members – just active duty personnel.
A Pentagon spokesperson said this was down to a federal statute from the 1980s that specifically bans military insurance from covering surgery for “sex gender changes.” The law allows the defence secretary to make exceptions for active-duty members but not military dependents or retirees.
Harper Jean Tobin, policy director for the National Centre for Transgender Equality, said the Pentagon misinterprets the law. She said cosmetic surgery is banned, not operations that many doctors now consider medically necessary.
“They’re trying to do the right thing,” Tobin said. “But they’ve gotten the interpretation wrong.”