Updated: September 19, 2009 at 1:07 am
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Healthcare debate in this country hasn’t gone from the ridiculous to the sublime; rather, it’s become progressively and inexorably more insane: death panels, euthanasia and eugenics. Of course, trans people have not escaped the foray unscathed.
In the course of dealing with Neo-Christian fundamentalist zealots, we encounter many vitriolic and seemingly possessed pontificators. Some of those chest beaters shout louder than the rest. You know the ones: Dobson, Phelps, Baker, and Falwell and their ilk. Peter LaBarbera and Matt Barber are the newest in this downright nasty group of fear mongering, doom prophesying bigots. Not too long ago, Barber wrote a piece entitled “Abortion on Demand, Gender Identity Disorder: ObamaCare Likely to Mandate Free Sex-Change Surgeries.”
Congenital myopia leads Barber to repeat his timeworn spiel. Unfortunately, he’s just smart enough to have supported his view using erroneous diagnoses put forth by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) in the DSM. Trans activists have been fighting the APA and that organization’s own zealots who insist upon pathologizing gender diversity the way they once did with being gay. These ill-directed efforts stem from a patriarchal mindset that imposes obscene intrusion as well as rigid restrictions upon persons who don’t conform to their ideas of “normalcy.”
The gist of Barber’s argument is twofold. The first is based upon what appears to be activity by the U.S. Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP), along with the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). They have been mandated the task of delineating male and female vis-à-vis the concept of gender, and how the understanding of these terms should be interpreted in the context of statistics gathering for Medicare and Medicaid. Will these measures include LGBT categories or not? This is actually an important issue to trans activists, but, of course, Barber and Labarbera have turned it into another of their transphobic bogeymen.
Unfortunately, Barber’s religious and patriarchal convictions seem to preclude his acceptance of gender diversity, despite a mountain of anecdotal and scientific resources. He refuses to accept that another person’s understanding of her/himself may differ from his. It is interesting that not every Christian — hardly a majority, in fact — holds to such a literalistic, dogmatic and narrow view regarding Biblical scripture and moral doctrine espoused therein. He holds fast to the worship of an exclusionary policy in which, he seems to feel, God has empowered him to be not only keeper of the law, but official interpreter. Only heterosexuality and the strictest understandings of gender as a rigid binary are okay. Everything else is amoral, “practiced” by subversive outlaws determined to undermine his particular vision of exclusionary ethics. Gathering statistics regarding gay, lesbian and trans persons would, in Barber’s mindset, validate his deepest fear: the “homosexual agenda.”
The second part of his argument is equally baseless. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), when queried about the impending health care revisions and how they would apply to abortion, stated that “any service deemed medically necessary or medically appropriate” would be covered in “ObamaCare.” Barber has deduced that this includes “sex changes.” Again, his argument is the same. Trans persons are essentially deviant, contrived and not to be dignified with anything in the way of recognition and equal treatment by either government or society. Such recognition feeds his fearful anxiety of a society which embraces diversity.
The fact of the matter is, Barber is correct in his understanding that trans people want insurance coverage. We also want a system that is not dead set upon pathologizing us. What Barber doesn’t get is a sense of what is and isn’t fair and equal treatment. I guess he missed the part of scripture which advises against judging others and advocates humility. The blinders of bigotry prevent him from seeing outside his narrow field of view.
Matt Barber’s fear of surgery for trans people became even more ludicrous after an encounter with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. Incensed that she purportedly stated that he claimed sex changes would be mandated for all, Barber let loose with more vitriol. Of course, Ms. Maddow is not insipid enough to think that everyone would be forced to have corrective surgery. He quibbles over a mere turn of phrase in his efforts to defend his position. And the mantra continues: “It’s unconscionable to force Americans, against their conscience…, to facilitate gender confusion by subsidizing the elective practice of genital ‘sex-change’ mutilation.” Those are his words. He goes on to argue that ordinary citizens should not be forced to pony up the $50,000 it costs per surgery. Many analysts deem the real cost to be pennies per person when spread across a large demographic.
It is obvious that healthcare needs reform. It’s equally obvious that we spend far more on corrective rather than preventative care. Billions could be saved if we exercised, had better diets, and ate healthier foods. Systemic changes are needed in both how healthcare is delivered and how it is regulated. A system predicated solely upon profit is inherently tilted against those with low incomes. Compounded by collusion and price fixing by insurance companies, a for-profit system essentially guarantees that many people will either not qualify or fall through the cracks. Of course, this is the case for the majority of trans individuals whose incomes are low. Resistance to positive change is measurably exacerbated when people like Matt Barber and Peter LaBarbera act as provocateurs with their campaign of bigotry and fear.
Transsexuality is an innate condition typified by a non-alignment between brain gender and physical anatomy and has an uncomplicated and relatively inexpensive regimen of treatment. There is nothing to fear. We are neither contagious nor maladjusted. The logic of hatred fired in the hell of Biblical certainty, the kind that Dobson, Phelps, Baker, Falwell, and now, Barber and LaBarbera espouse(d), is the real mental illness we need to address.
— Comments and corrections can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. To contact Robbi Cohn, email email@example.com.
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