A new telehealth company serving the LGBTQ community rented a billboard and dedicated its message to former President Donald Trump: "Trans Lives Are Precious."
On Friday, Folx Health launched its campaign in Palm Beach, Fla., where it will remain until April 18. The timing was not coincidental, as Wednesday is International Transgender Day of Visibility, nor was its location on I-95, close to the Palm Beach International Airport and Trump's private resort (and residence) Mar-a-Lago. "We chose this location deliberately to remind our former president, a man that was focused on dismantling the rights of transgender Americans, that our existence is valid and important and that we deserve to be seen, held and cared for," read a photo caption on the company's Instagram account.
The Trump administration had dismantled antidiscriminatory policies in a number of areas: The Department of Health and Human Services limited the definition of sex discrimination "to the plain meaning of the word 'sex' as male or female and as determined by biology," which meant that a transgender person seeking various medical treatments could potentially be denied care. The Department of Defense also disqualified those with gender dysphoria ("the feeling of discomfort or distress that might occur in people whose gender identity differs from their sex assigned at birth or sex-related physical characteristics,” as defined by the Mayo Clinic) or who were undergoing hormone treatments or gender-affirming surgery from joining the military without a waiver that's granted on a case-by-case basis. And the Department of Education dropped a rule that allowed students to use school restrooms that corresponded with their gender identities.
Since taking office, President Biden issued an executive order enforcing transgender protections, urged the passing of the Equality Act to protect LGBTQ Americans (the bill passed the House in February and went to Senate) and on Wednesday called on Americans to join him "in uplifting the worth and dignity of transgender Americans."
However, some states are trying to limit freedoms for transgender people. On Monday, the Arkansas Senate passed legislation that prevents doctors from providing gender-affirming medical care for patients under the age of 18. Now Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who recently signed a law that bans transgender girls from competing on sports teams that represent their gender identities, will decide whether to sign it. And according to the Human Rights Campaign, there are 29 bills in 17 states that limit medical access for transgender people.
The threat of diminished health care for transgender people and general ignorance surrounding transgender health care is why Folx, which launched in January and currently serves 12 states, is staffed entirely by trans and queer medical professionals who understand their patients firsthand. The company provides gender-affirming hormone therapy and erectile dysfunction medication and will eventually expand into sexual health care (STI testing and treatment), behavioral health and alternative family planning. The company is also interested in mental health services, as data reveals a heightening mental health crisis for transgender people.
"Transgender people face adversity generally and broadly, but specifically in the health care sphere," Folx's vice president of marketing, Rocco Kayiatos, tells Yahoo Life. “The statistics are grim.” According to a survey of 1,528 LGBTQ adults published in 2020 by the Center for American Progress and the University of Chicago, 15 percent delayed or avoided medical treatment because of discrimination, and one in three transgender people had to educate their doctor "about transgender individuals" to be treated properly. While previous statistics from Lambda Legal, a civil rights organization for LGBT people and those living with HIV, found that almost 21 percent of transgender and gender nonconforming subjects were spoken to with "harsh or abusive" language from a medical professional, and almost 8 percent reported "physically rough or abusive treatment." More than 20 percent of people in these groups said they were blamed for their own medical conditions.
According to Kayiatos, many transgender residents live in "care deserts," especially in Southern states (home to one in three transgender people, according to a report from think tank Movement Advancement Project and gay rights organization Campaign for Southern Equality). "There are often no trans- or queer-competent care providers in their area, so they're left to drive five hours roundtrip to the nearest big city," he says. "And a lot of these people live in small rural areas because that's where they feel comfortable."
Kayiatos wants not only transgender people to see the billboard slogan but also those "who have had the opportunity to ignore the fact that trans people exist and our lives are incredibly valuable." He does not know if the former president has seen the billboard.
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