Creep of the Week: Roger Severino
By D’Anne Witkowski
Even if you know in your heart of rainbow hearts that the president of the United States and the cretins who work for him hate you, you might not realize that this administration is always busy working to further harm LGBTQ people.
They’re cruel. But are they “deny transgender people health care in the middle of a major pandemic during Pride month on the anniversary of the Pulse night club massacre” cruel?
You know the answer.
The Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights, which is headed by Roger Severino, a man the Human Rights Campaign has described as a “radical anti-LGBTQ-rights activist,” issued a rule that narrows what counts as “sex discrimination” in Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act. It only counts if you get discriminated against because you’re a lady or a man. Not if you’re “other.” In the Trump Administration you’re either strictly a MAN or WOMAN or you’re some kind of freak who doesn’t count. Doesn’t exist.
So LGBTQ folks are fighting back using one of the only words Trump seems to understand: lawsuit.
As NPR reports, “A coalition of LGBTQ clinics and organizations are suing to block a Trump administration rule that aims to strip ‘sex discrimination’ protections for transgender people from laws that govern health care.”
If you remember back to 2016, BEFORE we elected a racist dumpster fire as a president, the Obama Administration was clear that “sex” included gender identity. But under Trump, gender identity is out. Discrimination is in.
[email protected] Coalition President and CEO Bamby Salcedo told NPR that this rule change “will hurt marginalized communities who already experience barriers to care.”
“Even those of us who are lucky to get through the reception and get to see a doctor,” Salcedo continued, “we often encounter that the doctor tells us, ‘I don’t treat people like you.’”
We have a major health care problem in this country. Too many people go without it. And too many people can’t access it even if they want to. The Affordable Care Act, though not perfect, attempted to address some of those problems. And Republicans have done nothing but try to destroy the ACA, and they truly don’t care what it means for people who stand to lose care if they succeed in dismantling it. There is NO Republican plan for a replacement. The replacement is, “Health care is for everyone. If you can afford it.”
It’s an immoral stance, but their goal to set the ACA on fire didn’t miss a beat once the pandemic started. Now, with over 120,000 (when article was written) dead from COVID-19, instead of being focused on preventing death and stopping the spread of this virus, the Trump Administration is throwing transgender people to the wolves. Well, they’re actually throwing the country to the wolves, they’re just trying to hurt transgender people more beforehand.
Trump said that the reason we have so many COVID-19 cases is because we test too much. He said he wants to “slow down” testing. More than 120,000 are dead, but it’s not because of Trump’s incompetence and complete disregard for anybody but himself, it’s because we’re too aggressive with testing.
Stupidity and cruelty rule the day in Trump’s administration.
And it’s entirely by design. Severino — who has a history of opposing marriage equality, supporting abusive “conversion” therapy, not considering transgender people fully human and who has a history at the anti-LGBTQ Heritage Foundation — didn’t get to be the head of HHS’ Office for Civil Rights by accident.
According to CBS News, there are 10 plaintiffs in the case against who argue that the rule change was made “with next-to-no legal, medical or reasoned policy foundation, and contrary to the opinions of professional medical and public health organizations.”
Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, Senior Attorney and Health Care Strategist for Lambda Legal, said in a press release that the change “creates chaos and confusion where there was once clarity,” which could literally describe everything the Trump Administration has ever done and will ever do.
Severino, however, believes that the religious rights of health care workers are being violated if they have to take care of transgender people. And, let’s be honest, it’s likely the only kind of medical care Severino associates with transgender people is what he no doubt calls a “sex change operation,” as if trans folks don’t get sinus infections and kidney stones.
“For years, the Trump administration has utilized HHS as a weapon to target and hurt vulnerable communities who already experience alarming rates of discrimination when seeking care, even now, during a global pandemic,” Gonzalez-Pagan continued. “We will fight back.”
I’m glad that we have folks like Gonzalez-Pagan working hard to protect LGBTQ rights, but remember that if the people who write the laws in the first place think LGBTQ people are human beings, we wouldn’t be at this sad awful juncture. Voting matters. Do it.
D’Anne Witkowski is a poet, writer and comedian living in Michigan with her wife and son. She has been writing about LGBT politics for over a decade. Follow her on Twitter @MamaDWitkowski.