Effective January 1, 2015 the city of Rochester, NY will cover medical services related to gender reassignment, including medical and psychological counseling, hormone therapy, and cosmetic and reconstructive surgeries, as announced by Mayor Lovely Warren at Empire State Pride Agenda’s Spring Dinner on May 17.
The initiative is part of a plan steered by City Councilmember Matt Haag to raise the city’s Municipal Equality Index.
Eliminating barriers to health care is simply the right thing to do. The city was the first to support domestic partnerships, and I am happy that we lead the effort to equalize benefits for all once again.
The inclusion of transition-related care in municipal benefits will improve the health and well-being of transgender employees and also send a message to the rest of our state that we need to provide medically necessary care to all transgender New Yorkers. Rochester has long been a leader on LGBT civil rights and this is just one more example of how this great city sets a strong example for the rest of New York state.
–Nathan M. Schaefer, executive director of Empire State Pride Agenda
Additionally, beginning with the 2014-15 academic year, the University of Rochester will offer transition-related health care coverage as part of the student health care plan.
It’s a medical necessity. It will also help promote a more inclusive environment and a more healthy and productive student body.
–John Cullen, coordinator of outreach for the Susan B. Anthony Center for Women’s Leadership at UR
UR thus becomes the 52nd university in the nation to adopt a progressive health care policy for its transgender students.
Not everyone in Rochester was overjoyed at these announcements. Radio station 98.9’s Breakfast Buzz hosts Kimberly and Beck couldn’t contain their bigotry.
The services that will be paid for under the new coverage: gender reassignment surgery, psychological counseling, because you’re probably a nut job to begin with, that’s my opinion, hormone therapy, cosmetic and reconstructive surgery.
One woman caller to the program offered this:
It’s incredibly disrespectful towards transgender people. Please don’t spread any misinformation especially when you’re joking about it.
One of the hosts replied to the woman, “Thank you, SIR”, causing the other to laugh.
The hosts were at first suspended indefinitely by management at Entercom. Then Thursday Entercom released the following statement:
This morning Entercom fired Kimberly and Beck effective immediately. Their hateful comments against the transgender community do not represent our station or our company. We deeply apologize to the transgender community, the community of Rochester, and anyone else who was offended by their hateful comments. We are proud of our past work on behalf of the local LGBT community and we remain committed to that partnership.”
— Sue Munn, Vice-President/General Manager Entercom Rochester
What Kim and Beck said was absolutely repugnant, disgusting, and vile. They hold a platform and we need to hold those in positions of power accountable for their actions, their speech, and what they put are putting out into the universe. We were reduced to a laugh track on a morning radio station; I am a person first, transgender second and what they said disgusted me to my bones.
–Evaine Wesp, who protested outside the studios Thursday
It was just such blatant ignorance and misinformation and really not understanding the issues, that was the part that was really heartbreaking is that people could still be that misinformed.
When you’re talking about gender identity it really is about gender between the ears not gender between the legs and it’s knowing yourself as a man or a woman, male or female, boy or girl. And knowing that the gender you were told you were at birth doesn’t fit the gender you feel yourself to be and that disconnect of knowing who you are and what everyone else is telling you, you are can be very painful and a really difficult journey for many people.
–Scott Fearing, executive director of Gay Alliance
I was shocked and then disappointed that anyone would use those comments about an entire community of people. Clearly they were comments made without knowledge or understanding of the Transgender community. I appreciate Entercom’s response to this situation. I hope it’s an opportunity for the community as a whole to better understand the Transgender community and healthcare issues the members of that community face.
There were a substantial number of social media comments that brought up the issue of censorship and the First Amendment. It is surprising that so many people think that Freedom of Speech means that someone can say whatever they want and nobody gets to challenge what they say.
The beauty about this country is that we can have smart thoughts and we can have dumb thoughts, we can say smart things and we can say dumb things but we don’t necessarily have a right to say dumb things on our employer’s time and on our employer’s dime. That is where they crossed the line.
–Christopher Thomas, Nixon Peabody Law Firm