As healthcare workers, we take it as a given that everyone should be able to get the healthcare they need. We were horrified to learn that on June 12 – the 4th anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub shooting that rocked the LGBT community in 2016 – the current administration signed an order that ended healthcare protections for LGBT people. Transgender people have already died in this country as a result of healthcare discrimination. Under this new rollback of the law, a transgender person could be denied care – whether it’s a checkup, a prescription, or even life-saving emergency surgery – just because they don’t conform to the medical practitioner’s preconceived notions of gender and sexual identity.
Needless to say, this is not how our healthcare system should operate. Especially now, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to kill hundreds a day, it is outrageous to pass a law that would let medical providers refuse COVID-19 tests to trans people simply because they felt uncomfortable doing so. A Black trans woman – who is far more likely to be assaulted and murdered than her white or cisgender neighbors – could be refused entry into an Emergency Room simply because of who she is. What kind of message does that send to other LGBT patients? Or to the thousands of LGBT healthcare workers who have dedicated their lives to caring for others?
Our society has a mixed track record with respect to LGBT rights, and the healthcare field is no exception. During the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the 80s and 90s, while some members of the healthcare community went the extra mile for their patients, others mocked, ignored, and kept patients from seeing their loved ones as they lay dying in hospital beds. Now, we have a chance to do better. At SEIU-UHW our mission is Healthcare Justice, which means quality, accessible healthcare for everyone provided by respected caregivers everywhere. Achieving Healthcare Justice means we will continue to stand up for all patients and healthcare workers, regardless of their race, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation. Everyone deserves healthcare.