EDITORIAL: CTA turns in right direction for employee needing surgery

SHARE EDITORIAL: CTA turns in right direction for employee needing surgery

Russia Brown | Provided ACLU of Illinois

Sometimes, a government agency’s responsibility is about more than running the trains on time.

The CTA realized that recently when it reversed itself and agreed to cover “gender dysphoria” surgeries for its employees. Thankfully, the agency figured out it was time to move into the 21st century. Other agencies and businesses should take note and follow suit.


With this decision, the CTA joins in sending a message that advances transgender rights. For example, this summer, the World Health Organization put “gender incongruence” in its chapter on sexual health rather than on mental health, where it had resided previously. Similarly, gender reassignment surgery has been recognized as a right in a Wisconsin federal court for transgender Medicaid recipients, and in March Nevada became the 16th state to issue Medicaid coverage guidelines for gender transition. That progress has taken place even as President Donald Trump is thinking about imposing a change in policy that is biased against Americans who identify with a gender different from the one from birth.

In making its decision, the CTA was responding to a request from a 28-year-old CTA bus driver who was born a female and who was scheduling a “bilateral mastectomy,” or breast removal surgery, as part of making a transition to a male.

At first, the bus driver, Russia Brown, was told the CTA’s insurance policy had rejected the claim. But the agency quickly relented.

The policy change allowed Brown to go ahead with a $30,000 procedure he called “top surgery,” which he could not have afforded without insurance. He plans to have “bottom surgery” in the future.

When he learned of the policy change, Brown said, “I found myself skipping around the yard, just being overjoyed.”

In both business and government, there are stragglers that don’t provide this kind of care. They should use the CTA’s example to review their own insurance policies and remedy them where necessary.

RELATED: White House asks high court to hear transgender military case

There’s no reason to let a government agency or private insurance company dictate an unfair policy.

“It was just a final blow. I kind of hit rock bottom,” Brown said Wednesday of the CTA’s initial decision to reject the surgery.

But because of Brown’s courageous decision and the CTA’s prompt response, many people in similar situations will feel a sense of uplift.

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com.

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