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Trans Man Sues Workplace Over Health Care Discrimination

trans man from massachusetts sues health insurance, workplace for discrimination.

The American health care system is failing trans people — look no further than this one man’s experience for evidence of that.

Alexander Pangborn is a 41-year-old transgender man from Haydenville, Massachusetts, who works as a nurse at a local branch of Ascend Hospice. Last Thursday, he and his lawyer filed a discrimination complaint at the state and federal level against Ascend, its parent company CareOne Management, and Aetna Life Insurance Co. for repeatedly denying him coverage for an unspecified transition-related surgical procedure, The Boston Globe reports.

“Honestly, it was very crushing,” Pangborn told the Globe. “My co-workers, we all pay into the same system to receive health care, and you are saying my medically necessary care isn’t necessary. That makes you feel devalued as an employee and also as a person.”

Although Aetna, Pangborn’s insurance provider through his employment with Ascend, does consider “gender reassignment surgery” to be “medically necessary,” CareOne explicitly excludes any care that alters “sex or sexual characteristics” as part of a, heavy quotes here, “sex change.”

“It is unlawful to single out transgender employees and to essentially give them a lesser employee benefit package than all other employees,” Chris Erchull, Pangborn’s attorney through the GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders, told the Globe.

Pangborn’s case highlights just one of the ways in which trans people are denied life-saving treatment. Thanks to disproportionately high levels of employment discrimination, many trans people are unable to get jobs with health care benefits in the first place, which also serves to economically marginalize them, leaving them less likely to ever be able to afford transition care out of pocket.

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