Markey Hosts LGBTQ+ Roundtable

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Photo courtesy of the office of Senator Edward J. Markey.
Photo courtesy of the office of Senator Edward J. Markey.

Announces new call on VA to provide gender-affirming surgery for trans veterans

Amid the state of emergency that transgender and nonbinary people in Massachusetts and across the United States are experiencing — including increasing reports of violence, discrimination, and fear, Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) today hosted an LGBTQ+ Community Convening to hear from individuals and organizations about the need to better support the transgender and nonbinary community.

Participants discussed how the federal government can advance the health, safety, and well-being of the community, including fighting back against harmful Republican rhetoric and misinformation about transgender people, ensuring that all members of the community are included in policymaking, improving access to health care, housing, and other basic necessities, and celebrating transgender and nonbinary people.

As part of the conversation, Senator Markey announced his new call on the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) to remove restrictions on, and provide health care coverage for, gender-affirming surgery for transgender veterans. Despite the VA already offering other types of gender-affirming care, including pre- and post-operative care for gender-affirming surgery, the VA does not cover surgery itself.

In their letter to the VA, the lawmakers highlighted that gender-affirming surgery is associated with reduced gender dysphoria, improved quality of life, and decreased anxiety, depression, and even suicidal ideation, which remain especially critical given the higher rates of suicide among veterans in comparison to civilians. Transgender veterans are 20 times more likely to die by suicide than their cisgender veteran peers. Cosigners of the letter include Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawai'i), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and Peter Welch (D-Vt.).

"We can make every day Transgender Day of Visibility when we commit to justice and equality for the transgender and nonbinary community," said Senator Markey. "We need a whole of government commitment to transgender and nonbinary individuals. That is why I am calling on the Department of Veterans Affairs to take immediate actions to cover gender-affirming surgery for transgender veterans. Thanks to the efforts of the local leaders who we heard from today, Massachusetts has long led the nation in the fight for equal rights for the LGBTQ+ community. Despite the brutal threats and attacks, we cannot stop advocating for greater access to gender-affirming care. We know that transgender health is health, and health care is a human right, and we will always fight on the frontlines for equality."

"I am really grateful for this event and for the chance to highlight key issues at a pivotal moment for the LGBTQ+ community. I am also very grateful for Senator Markey's support and all our allies in Congress, the Senate, and the general community," said Sandra McDonald, Steering Committee Member at Human Rights Campaign New England.

"Senator Markey and his team are leading the way for trans rights in the country. This work is needed now more than ever. It's clear that the Senator's fight for freedom, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness rises all tides. We are looking ahead to this Transgender Day of Visibility and beyond with joy and hope," said Dallas Ducar, Chief Executive Officer of Transhealth.

"We're grateful to be a part of this discussion with Senator Markey to ensure that the needs of trans and non-binary Bay Staters are heard and amplified all the way to Capitol Hill," said Kelsey Grunstra, Executive Director at Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition.

"I am excited to be included in this pivotal conversation about the needs of the transgender community and grateful to Senator Markey for his continued allyship and support," said Tanya Neslusan, Executive Director at MassEquality.

"I'm grateful to be a part of this conversation. The Commission commends Senator Markey for his efforts to make equity for trans people a reality and to codify their rights into law. We stand in solidarity with Senator Markey in his efforts to free the most marginalized person in the room and fill the gaps in service provisions for all LGBTQ+ people," said Shaplaie Brooks, Executive Director at Massachusetts Commission on LGBTQ+ Youth.

"I'm grateful for the opportunity to discuss LGBTQ+ rights with the Senator and the importance of education, access to care, and active allyship," said Dani Chase, LGBTQ+ Activist, Author, and Speaker.

In March 2023, Senator Markey and Representative Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) introduced the Transgender Bill of Rights, a landmark resolution to recognize the federal government's duty in protecting and codifying the rights of transgender and nonbinary people, as well as to ensure transgender people have access to medical care, shelter, safety, and economic security. In June 2023, during Pride Month, Senator Markey introduced the Gender Affirming Care Access Research for Equity (CARE) Act to authorize $25 million annually over five years for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to research barriers to gender-affirming care and the impact of those barriers on health. In September 2022, Senator Markey sent a letter to the Biden administration on lifting barriers to testosterone and expanding access to gender-affirming hormone therapy for transgender people, including transgender men and transmasculine nonbinary people.