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Sex Changes For Free

February, 2001


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 to know.

            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 perspective. 

            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






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