The social consciousness in Minnesota around sexual orientation and gender identity has been undergoing significant change in the past several decades. Marriage between same-sex couples was legal in the state long before the U.S. Supreme Court declared marriages legal across the nation last year.
Gender identity is another area in which changes are being seen. But as a legal battle now being waged by one Minnesota man shows, some hurdles remain to be cleared before the road to equal rights can be said to be complete. What makes the case especially noteworthy is that there was a time when the fight wouldn't have been necessary.
The crux of the case is the effort of this 63-year-old transgender man to obtain the gender reassignment surgery that he says he needs and doctors say he should have to alleviate the pain he experiences over being a man in a woman's body. The stumbling block is that he is on public health insurance and by virtue of a ban passed by the state legislature in 2005, that surgery isn't covered. It used to be.
To be clear, this man has reportedly been formally diagnosed with gender dysphoria -- a recognized mental condition. It is characterized as a sensation of incompatibility between one's birth gender and the gender one mentally identifies with that is so great that it causes great emotional distress and pain.
Despite that, the current public health plans in Minnesota only cover hormone therapy and counseling. Surgery to complete the change is barred by law. And according to some experts, that denial runs counter to what is considered the mainstream view -- that gender reassignment surgery be considered a necessary stage in the process.
A law to lift Minnesota's ban is said to be under consideration in the legislature. Meanwhile, the fight for equal rights goes on for this man. We wish him well in his efforts and urge anyone in the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community who feels their rights are being denied to speak with an understanding and experienced attorney about their options.