Transgender rights advocates rallied Tuesday night in defiance of Trump administration plans to roll back a rule under Obamacare barring health care providers from denying treatment to transgender people, including gender reassignment surgery.
The attendees congregated at the headquarters of the AFL-CIO near the White House as the Trump administration considers reversing the Obama-era rule interpreting Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which bars sex discrimination in health care, to apply to transgender people.
Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said the proposal to eliminate the rule demonstrates the Trump administration “is dedicated to hurting trans people among the many other groups of people they’re hurting.”
“Trans children are terrified just as immigrant children are terrified and Muslim children are terrified and black children are terrified and poor children are terrified — and all their parents are terrified,” Keisling said.
For months, the White House Office of Management & Budget website has indicated it’s considering a revision of the Obama-era rule in favor of transgender health — which could be a religious exemption or an outright repeal — although no action has yet happened.
Raquel Willis, a black transgender woman from Georgia and national organizer for the Transgender Law Center, said rally attendees were coming together against the proposed rule change “as fierce warriors for liberation.”
“We’re strong enough today because we know the Trump-Pence administration is continuing an onslaught against our people,” Willis said. “Bottom line: Transgender non-conforming folks deserve adequate health care access, doctors and insurance companies that are committed to this fact.”
A federal judge has already enjoined the U.S. government from enforcing the Obama-era rule as a result of litigation filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. The Trump administration declined to take up an opportunity to appeal that decision to a higher court.
That decision stands in contrast to rulings from federal courts across the country, which have widely determined anti-trans discrimination amounts to illegal sex discrimination under current law.
Charlotte Clymer, a transgender advocate and spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, said the consideration of reversal of the rule is par for the course for the Trump administration.
“The medical community overwhelmingly supports transgender people, the federal courts have consistently ruled in favor of transgender rights,” Clymer said. “The courts and the science are on our side, but it is the public that needs to be made aware of the hatred and viciousness of this White House.”
Other anti-trans policies the Trump administration has pushed include an attempt to ban transgender people from the military and an assertion that transgender people aren’t covered under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars sex discrimination in the workplace.
Also at the rally was Lori Woehrle, the parent of two sons — one who is transgender — and who talked about the impact the rule change would have on her child.
“As his mother, I can see the apprehension on his face and the worry in his heart even when he puts out a stoic front, so I’m here tonight out of concern that my son — and thousands of other sons and daughters — will soon face a roll back in their ability to access health care,” Woehrle said.
Ruby Corado, a D.C.-based transgender advocate and founder of the Casa Ruby LGBT Community Center, drew on her experience as a transgender person with HIV to emphasize the importance of opposing the proposed reversal.
“I’ve seen in my personal experience what health care can do,” Corado said. “I’m supposed to be dead. I’ve witnessed what transgender-related health care can do for a person who has been newly diagnosed.”
The Washington Blade has placed a request seeking comment with the Department of Health & Human Services for an update on the proposal to rescind the rule.
Although the odds are against transgender advocates in their bid to stop the reversal, Keisling offered attendees encouraging words as she drew the event to a close.
“Everyone remember: We’re not trying to weather the storm right now, we are the fucking storm,” Keisling said to cheers.
This article originally appeared in the Washington Blade and is made available in partnership with the National Gay Media Association.