My First Experience with Medical Discrimination

Not until the Affordable Care Act went into effect was I able to buy private insurance. I cannot think of a single insurer that did not deny me coverage based on the pre-existing condition of “Gender Identity Disorder”. For a few years, I was lucky not to need it. Eventually, my luck ran out.

In 2003, I unexpectedly awoke in agony to the point of nausea and near unconsciousness. Frightened, Jaime, then my partner, quickly sped me to the emergency room. While seemingly in perfect health, just days after receiving a denial letter from yet another health insurance company, I was being seen for an unexpected kidney failure.

As I waited and waited, I wailed and moaned in pain and writhed in agony, I was bumped to the front of the line because I was making the rest of the waiting room anxious.

The first nurse to examine me was to insert a catheter to relieve the painful building pressure in my kidney before a rupture occurred. My abdomen was clearly distended from excess fluid. When she pulled back the gown on a seemingly pretty, 32 year old woman, she saw a penis, dropped the catheter kit onto the floor and we never saw her again.

It was nearly another hour before a nurse entered the room to provide me with some relief. I was screaming in agony by this time.

When I left 24 hours after surgery, I was presented for a bill, which only included the hospital bill, not the surgery, anesthesia, or physician, for $19,000. I could not pay.

At the time I was making a fair wage for a single person. The billing department prescreened for TennCare(Medicaid) coverage and surprisingly was told I qualified as a single female under current guidelines. I was even assured the visit would most likely be paid in full retroactively. Additionally, they set an appointment with the appropriate state agency to have an interview and complete the process.

I did go to the interview. I sat down with an agency representative. She looked at me and slowly glared up and down my body. After an exasperated sigh she told me that normally I would have qualified, but the program was for single women, not single men that like to dress up like women.

Needless to say, I left embarrassed and ashamed.

Over the next few years I acquired more medical bills which I could not pay. Eventually, the crushing medical debt forced me to file bankruptcy to discharge those obligations. At the time, I was still unable to legally obtain health insurance.