The San Francisco Board of
Supervisors and Mayor Willie Brown are expected to approve a measure that would
make that city the only governmental unit in the nation to provide sex change
benefits for its transgender employees. Regular readers can probably guess
where I stand on this: I think it’s a great idea.
For San Francisco. For one I don’t pay taxes
there, so no skins out of my wallet. Secondly, we live in a society that has
managed to wring privacy rights and separation of church and state out of a
Constitution that mentions neither. By the same token it is clear that every
American has an inalienable right to be a dope and to elect officials who will
set policy accordingly.
Third, this is a representative democracy.
The notion of sex change benefits is not
unique. Oregon rejected the idea as too wacky in 1999, possibly a first for
that state. Minnesota actually did provide sex change benefits for state
employees until 1998, but apparently even the slightest possibility of a “Gov.
Jessica Ventura” was enough to bring them to their senses.
The cost of the procedure varies depending on
whether you want an “innie” or an “outie.” Female-to-male surgery averages
$77,000, while the male-to-female process is a steal at $37,000, about the price
of a new Lexus. The coverage caps at $50,000; employees will have to pay 15
percent of the amount themselves if they use a doctor in the city’s health plan
and 50 percent if they go outside the network.
Here’s a fun homework assignment for you: Go
to the human resources department at work tomorrow and ask which doctors in your
company health plan perform sex-change surgery. Just don’t tell them I wanted
An Associated Press story on the new benefit
explains that “transgender” is a broad term including cross-dressers,
transvestites, transsexuals and those born with characteristics of both sexes.
Interestingly, Reuters notes that San Francisco has only about a dozen such
employees yet as many as 35 might use the benefit in the first year. Does this
mean that non-transgender employees will be subjected to the procedure?
If so, I’d like to nominate Mayor Brown.
Brown, who is 66 and married, was in the news last month for fathering a child
with his chief fundraiser. “I wouldn’t burden her with that,” Brown said when
asked if he would marry the mother-to-be. “There is nothing unseemly about this
at all.” Perhaps a look from the other side might give Hizzoner a little
Also, consummate politician that he is, what
better way for Brown to reach out to this key constituency? If nothing else it
would give the phrase “I feel your pain” a whole new meaning.
According to San Francisco
Supervisor Mark Leno, “This is a medically diagnosed condition: gender identity
disorder … It really is a matter of equal benefits for equal work.” If they
really want to make it fair, they should recognize that gender confusion isn’t
the only medically diagnosed reason someone may not want to live as they were
made. I hope it isn’t long before San Francisco recognizes the unfairness of
singling out just one group.
Never forget that this is
America, the most prosperous nation on the face of the earth. We have an
unalienable right to be unhappy about anything we darn well please and to expect
someone to do something about it. It’s in the Constitution. Look it up.
Who among us wouldn’t change something about
their body, especially if it were covered by insurance? I, for instance, have
been diagnosed with male pattern baldness. I can live with it, but why should
I? And what about the overweight? That too is a medically diagnosed condition,
one with demonstrably negative health effects. What is Mayor Brown doing for
the bald and the heavy?
Which is the easiest question I’ve ever asked
myself: Until they vote as a block, nothing.
© 1997- 2002 Brent Morrison