When I drove to work yesterday morning a bit before 7 it was 69 balmy, relatively humid, degrees out. It had been like that for several days. A cold front that had been slowly making its way across the country made a windy, wet arrival last night and this morning it was 38 chilly (but sunny!) degrees. What a difference a day makes.
Things change over time. I've posted a number of things lately that are the results on long, ongoing efforts. Another is the release today of the HRC Corporate Equality Index. The key new statistic is the number of companies that cover trans-related procedures and expenses, including SRS (see details).
This achievement has not come easily. At the beginning (in 2004) when Jamison and I were on the HRC Business Council and were approached about adding new criteria to trans-related policy adding a section on wellness benefits was a no-brainer. But actually putting it into practice involved a tremendous amount of education and change as neither corporate America, the insurance industry, nor the medical "industry" for that matter was aligned to enact what needed to happen.
Over these last several years key players in finally getting to this point have been Andre Wilson and Jamison Green, corporate leaders who have pushed these benefits internally at their own companies, and so many others who have set the stage for where things are now.
I looked back in my old blogs and found an entry from August 2006:
August 4, 2006
I got an email from my friends at Eastman Kodak today. It reads as follows:
In a July 2006 update to the health care benefits Kodak offers its employees, Kodak will now cover sex transformation procedures, services and supplies provided on or after July 1, 2006, including therapy, sex hormones and transsexual surgery. In Kodak's view, this is a medical condition that the company believes warrants coverage under its medical plans.
Wow. To me, these two sentences say it all. Bravo Kodak! I couldn't be happier or prouder of the wonderful people there who helped to make this happen. It's not like they're trying to hide it, either. This kind of statement puts it out there for everyone to see. They absolutely rock.
I published a list of companies who said they cover SRS several weeks ago, and I expect that list to grow in leaps and bounds over the coming months. There are a couple of reasons: first, the HRC Corporate Equality Index is coming out next month and that always motivates companies to enact new GLBT policy to get a better score. This year, for the first time ever, we've included transgender wellness criteria that companies MUST have in order to achieve a perfect rating. I think it's going to make a huge difference and I doubt we'll know the true impact for years to come. When companies begin to cover these procedures they're doing more than just helping to defray the costs - they're helping to legitimize it as more than simple elective cosmetic surgery. The fact that companies have done the due diligence to understand the issues, to quantify the costs, to make the internal changes necessary to make this happen - it all adds up to one thing. Dignity.
I never imagined that I'd see these things happening in my lifetime. I suppose I've always taken it for granted that the medical costs of these procedures put it out of reach of all but the most fortunate. That is changing, and it's changing fast. What's even more amazing to me is to be part of this effort. I have no idea how ordinary people like me find themselves in the middle of things so huge as this. I like to call it "Life Tides". Mine have carried me to some pretty incredible places.
Knowing how world-changing these discussions were at the beginning, and now seeing them actually happening, continues to amaze me.
I think it's also important to highlight quiet leadership. A couple of weeks ago there was an article about Google setting the "Gold Standard" in trans related healthcare benefits (see it here). While it's nice that a company gets that kind of visibility and is that public about it, others have been doing these things for a while, when they didn't have to. IBM, American Express, Kodak...I can think of others who first set the standard and who proved that it was OK to do these things. In fact, experience from those companies laid the groundwork for what is happening now. Anyway....I don't want to minimize the value of any of these things, but it's all part of a bigger picture.
I also think it's important to recognize that most trans-people will never get these benefits. The single-most pressing issue we face as a community is chronic unemployment and under-employment that then has a number of other significant practical implications. We're fighting this cultural war on a number of fronts, and I don't think any of us is naive enough to think that positive news on one front somehow means "Victory". There's still a long way to go....
In other news, last night was our company has its Holiday Party. The company President is visiting from our main office so we finally had a chance to meet earlier in the week. I miss things like Christmas Parties where everyone in a small company got together to relax and socialize. I'm glad it's part of the culture of this small consulting company - it's actually one of the things that attracted me to it given that I've consulted for companies where we've never actually met in person. Anyway, we had dinner and drinks at a nice local restaurant and although I didn't over-indulge too badly I'm actually still kinda full this morning....
I don't like being this light. It's nice to be thin, but I don't like losing weight in my butt or in my face. Butt gets small, face gets gaunt-ish. At least I think they do. But I'm within comfortable striking distance of where I need to be by next Friday at 5pm so I suppose I shouldn't complain.
While I'm on a roll with some of the news I've been sharing lately I'll post another. It's a story about a Sales Associate at Macy's who was recently fired for refusing to allow a trans-woman to use the Women's Changing Room. Why? Because she said it violated her religious beliefs. (Details here)
Nobody knows all the details so it'd be premature to advocate that the way things went down was truly this simple. I'd be shocked if this sales associate was told that transgender people get to use whatever changing room they want. And I'm not saying that actions by the group of trans-women in this situation didn't perhaps exascerbate things. Regardless - that defense that the clerk's religious beliefs are somehow compromised in by "allowing" a trans woman to use the restroom is a key argument against any number of trans-supportive initiatives, including ENDA.
Here's another piece of current news: City Manager Fired. I'll just leave it alone for now...