August 6, 2012
Federal health-care programs and those funded with federal dollars are barred from discriminating against transgender people, a senior official with the Department of Health and Human Services told LGBT advocacy groups in July — a sweeping decision that will impact most health-care services across the country. Although the decision does not specifically address transition-related care — surgery and other medical procedures that some transgender people undergo in the course of moving to their self-identified gender — a leading transgender advocate says the decision is a "tool" to get protections that would cover transition-related care. In response to a letter sent by a dozen LGBT health and advocacy organizations to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in June, Leon Rodriguez — the director of HHS's Office for Civil Rights — wrote on July 12 HHS considers discrimination based on "gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity" in federal health programs or activities receiving funding under Affordable Care Act-covered programs to be illegal.