Titty Committee

I received an email today that caused a literal tidal wave of emotions to flood to the surface and I feel like one of the few places I can truly express them is in this semi-anonymous setting.

K and I used to work for an organization that serves the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. Dysfunction was rife and took many forms at said agency, but one of the most horrifying was their health insurance policy that specifically excluded transgender-related healthcare. This agency’s own equal employment opportunity policy referenced treating people equally, regardless of gender identity/expression, and the policy extended to benefits, hiring, firing, etc.

Since K clearly wanted to be able to access healthcare needs that were relevant to his identity, and his job at the time involved healthcare advocacy, he approached the CEO at the time to inform her of the extraordinarily problematic nature of these exclusions, and how they personally impacted his life. She basically told him, “Yeah, well, we can’t afford inclusive coverage, and since it doesn’t impact me, tough $%^&.”

The only other option was to file a formal grievance with the President of the Board of Directors. We were the first in the several decades’ history of the agency to file a grievance. Upon filing the grievance, according to documented procedure, the Board President convened a group of people to discuss the grievance and to make a decision. K and the President served on the committee, and they each selected a representative to serve (K chose me), and, if memory serves, there was another person who wasn’t affiliated with the agency who was asked to serve.

The committee met several times, during which we openly and awkwardly discussed K’s body and identity (why is having chest reconstruction surgery relevant to your identity?, why is this a medical expense vs. cosmetic surgery?, but do you really NEED a “breast reduction” in order to look/feel like a man, and why should we pay for it?). It was such a objectifying and demoralizing experience that, in order to maintain our sanity and trudge through it, K and I jokingly referred to this group as the “titty committee.” At the end of the process, the President basically said, “Yeah, we’re not equally providing benefits, but we can’t afford inclusive coverage, so tough $%^&.” I’m fairly certain that, to this day, this agency still does not provide inclusive health insurance to their transgender employees (if they even HAVE trans-identified employees these days).

Time marched on, and K and I have found much better employers that provide us with great healthcare coverage and celebrate our identities. We have mostly healed from the trauma and humiliation that this agency caused us on a fairly regular basis. I still avoid the place like the plague, though I continue to receive their email updates, mostly as a way to remind myself just how far we’ve come since then.

However, as I referenced above, I received an email from them today that triggered me and stopped me in my tracks. Their new Executive Director was trying to help a media outlet locate LGBT people who have experienced employment-related discrimination and would be willing to talk about it on the air. It took everything in my power to not reply with, “YOU! YOU DISCRIMINATE AGAINST TRANSGENDER PEOPLE, YOU F***ER!” I’m still so damn angry that, more than an hour later, my hands are ice-cold and my heart is pounding in my ears.

I will keep repeating, “We have survived and we are safe.” But what about those who come after us? I sincerely hope that they’ll find a way to create the change we were unable to make (or find another opportunity), because I need (and WANT!) to focus my energy on my growing, loving family.

Deep breaths.

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9 thoughts on “Titty Committee

  1. This sounds really, really awful. And, it makes me sad because I used to work for the LGBT Community Center where I am, running the youth drop in center, and it was filled with similarly clueless assholes. They also didn’t have insurance that covered trans specific care, and they didn’t cover partners – because it was ‘too expensive.’ Never mind the CEO was making close to a million dollars a year. And that was really only the half of it.
    I’ve always suspected – but still don’t enjoy when its confirmed – that these kinds of issues are endemic in the LGBT community – especially as some key battles have been won that benefit the most privileged of our “community” who can then choose to ignore the bigger context.
    Sending you calm, peace, and constant reminders that your anger is righteous but, as you pointed out, also much better directed at passionately creating a family and world in that is radically redesigned. <3!

  2. Ugh, I’m so sorry. What utter bullshit! If it would make you feel any better, I think you should write a brief email to the new ED explaining the discrimination you encountered in their org. Of course, if it’s too much to deal with, you’ve already fought the battle, but it might make you feel better to voice it and let it go. I’m sorry you both had to deal with that and happy that you found coverage that works.

  3. I love you both so much. Thanks for standing up for justice, even if it fell upon silence. This sort of discrimination always is terrible, but when it comes from within our own community it’s all the more devastating.

  4. I totally understand your physical reaction. It’s infuriating and traumatizing. It’s not just unfair, it is such a clear demonstration that a space that is supposed to be safe is very unsafe.

    When I was a grad student at a University of California, the TA union fought for coverage for trans students. There was enough sense of fairness and the pool was large enough that it was calculated that it would cost only about $1 more per person in the pool to cover trans stuff. Years later, employed by UC again, all policies they offer mandate coverage for trans stuff.

    I had this fantasy on your behalf of doing a radio ambush. It would be so satisfying to do a reveal on-air. Maybe there’s a call in or a tweet / facebook response portion of the show? Sure would like these administrators to be shamed into behaving right. I am so sorry that you are going through this all over again. My blood pressure is elevated just thinking about it.

    • What’s even more amazing about the experience is that all of the staff was in support of making the change. They were even willing to personally pay more so that our coverage would be inclusive. It was truly a top-down sort of problem and was literally oozing with privilege.

      The executive director at my outstanding current job actually forwarded the email from my old job to the entire staff here, and encouraged them to forward the email to appropriate people in their lives. I replied, knowing that she will be extraordinarily supportive of me, to inform her of our experience at our previous place of employment.

      It’s truly embarrassing that a place that is supposed to represent and support the LGBT community discimrinates against its own. I wish that I could do a big reveal and blow the lid off of this injustice, but I fear that it could be framed/interpreted as a disgruntled former employee who left as a result of a layoff.

      • “…all of the staff was in support of making the change. They were even willing to personally pay more so that our coverage would be inclusive.” Well, that’s encouraging at least. It sucks when folks at the top, who are supposed to be “leading,” can’t follow the leadership of the “rank & file.” Of course all of this (and my not being able to afford healthcare for myself or my handful of part-time employees – besides all the acupuncture you can eat) would be moot if we had universal socialized coverage. Maybe our society will get its shit together in that regard by the time our kids grow up!

  5. I find it amazing that you did not name this place in your post! I know that doing so could have ramifications, but the whole time I was reading I was thinking “I want to know what organization this is so I can avoid them and spread the word!!!!” And yeh, like AndiePants said, it is endemic and it is sad.

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