Forced out: A real ID problem for trans people

Changing one’s name and gender marker privately can be tricky if you're transgender, and a new law designed to thwart terrorists is about to make it a lot trickier. Part 10 in The Advocate’s ongoing Transgender 101 series

BY Joanne Herman

August 29 2006 12:00 AM ET

I started work
with a new employer right after transitioning to live as a
female in 2002. My previous employer had made it clear that
they were not going to accept my gender transition.

It was also the
start of my one-year “real life experience” of
living in my true gender. RLE, as it's called, is
one step in the guidelines for gender transition set
by medical professionals. It's intended to serve as a
sort of trial one must pass before receiving the medical
letter of approval required for sex reassignment surgery.
With management at my new job fully aware of the
“old” (male) me, I figured my
transgender status might never be an issue.

I quickly filled
out the Blue Cross application, excited about the
prospect of having health insurance in my new name for the
first time. Yet my excitement quickly faded a few days
later when Blue Cross called me. "Ms. Herman, there is
a person with the same last name in our database who
has a male first name. Do you know this person?"

Argh. I had to tell them the truth—I had had
Blue Cross coverage as my prior self. "Well, Ms. Herman, we
can't code you as female in our system until you've
had 'the surgery.'" I tried to explain the hardship
that having an m on my HMO card would present. I
would have to out myself to every doctor’s
billing office, explaining that they would need to
code me as male in their systems to be sure that their
health claims for me were processed.

The
representative went off to confer with her underwriting
department and then called back. "Sorry, we must code
you as male until surgery. And by the way, just a
reminder, your surgery will not be covered by
insurance." Insult to injury.

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