Friday, August 28, 2009

The Same Old Punch Line

It turns out President Obama is a bit of a jokester after all

by Pistol Pete

President Obama is busy crisscrossing the country in hopes of resuscitating his health care reform plan. He’s staying calm, on message and musing over ludicrous rumors that health care reform will include things like “death panels”, coverage for illegal immigrants and abortions for all. In his speeches (and, incredibly, later aped by Rachel Maddow) he also jokes about covering sex change operations. I’m sure this comment is quite the crowd-pleaser, but as a transgendered man, I am profoundly disappointed by his low-blow comments regarding a much misunderstood and discriminated against group that he simultaneously claims to support.

I wouldn’t have been so shocked by other, less well-informed politicians touting this line, but I expect more from Barack. Unlike many others, Obama knows the veracity of the condition known as Gender Identity Disorder (GID). Throughout his political life, Obama has supported legislation to ban discrimination in employment and housing based on sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as trans-inclusive hate crimes laws.

Obama knows how serious this condition is: the substance abuse and suicide rates among transgendered individuals are staggering, there is no known cure, and the only effective treatment to date has been the very thing he mocks - sexual reassignment surgery (SRS). Yet still he invokes the same old punch line about gender transition as some sort of outlandish elective procedure that does not address the “real” health needs of Americans.

Perhaps if there were any transgender data collection by our government, or public or private institutions with an interest in actually studying transgendered people, we would have the ability to document how real GID is and how vital SRS is to their survival. Right now, there is a small but growing body of evidence of the brain differences of transpeople, the failed interventions of psychotherapy, and, most importantly, the overwhelmingly positive outcomes in the mental and emotional well being of the few individuals who are able to afford the costly psychological and medical services required by universal GID standards of care.

I understand that politically, SRS in health care reform may be unfeasible, but to use transgendered people as your comic relief is simply cruel. Come on Barack, you’re not George Bush or Bill Clinton - you have a heart and a brain - use them.

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