Sunday, April 8, 2012

Transgender Rights

Over the past couple of weeks there has been some news about the rights of transgender people. The first story is the same old story of what bathroom a transgender person should use. Last year the University of Pittsburg expelled a transgender student for using the men’s locker room because his identification still showed him as female. In February, of this year, the Anti-Discriminatory Policies Committee unanimously ruled that there should be a policy that protects the rights of transgender students to use the restrooms of their identified gender. On March 20 the University of Pittsburg ignored this recommendation and created a policy that transgender people have to use the restroom that matches with their birth certificate. The only response as to why the adoption of this policy is from the vice chancellor of public affairs, that faculty and students can use the bathroom of “his or her declared gender identity after he or she has obtained a birth certificate designating the declared gender." The policy sacrifices the safety of the transgender person in order to make uninformed people feel better about their on gender identity. This policy reinforces the idea that being cisgender is superior to being transgender by making cisgender seen as “real” and transgender as being “fake or artificial.” It also ignores the fact that it is very expensive to change ones gender marker. In many states it requires a surgery. It also ignores the fact that many transgender people do not want to change their bodies. One of the faculty member’s at the University of Pittsburg, Emilia Lombardi, a transgender woman that has worked at the university since 2003, has made it clear she will continue to use the women’s room because of safety.

The next story takes place in Minnesota. In 2010, a transgender woman was dropped from her husband’s insurance because the insurance company claimed that a marriage between a man and a transwoman violates the Defense of Marriage Act. The insurance company also had a counter-claim of $80,000 because the insurance company felt that they were defrauded by the couple. There have been several cases like this over the past few years but this is the first one were the transgender person actually won!

Christine Radtke started transitioning back in the mid 1980’s and had gender reassignment surgery in 2003. The couple was married in 2005. The insurance’s argument was that since Christine was born male, her marriage was actually a same-sex couple not an opposite-sex couple. Chief Judge Michael J. Davis’s ruling, in his own words: “The Plan was unambiguously written to allow all persons who are legal spouses under Minnesota law to be eligible family dependents. The Fund’s role was to ascertain Minnesota law. It was not the Fund’s role to impose its own definitions of gender and marriage upon its participants. In this case, the Fund ignored all evidence of the State of Minnesota’s view of Plaintiff’s sex and marital status. The Fund’s decision was not only wrong, under a de novo review, it was a flagrant violation of its duty under any standard of review. In sum, the Fund erred when it terminated Plaintiff’s participation as an eligible family dependent. The Fund’s termination of Ms. Radtke is reversed and she is reinstated as a participant as of April 19, 2010.” The Fund was also ordered to pay the couple all medical expenses incurred since April 19, 2010.

While I am pleased with the way this case turned out I find it disturbing that policy makers are consistently making laws and policies that attack LGBTQ people and the only ones, in the government, that are fighting for Queer rights are Federal judges. Many people attack judicial activism but when our Legislative branch ignores us where are we supposed to go?  

Article sources
University of Pittsburg Gender policy
Marriage Case overview
The Decision of the marriage case:

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