San Francisco comes in first and last

Jessie Augustyn

Last week, the city of San Francisco decided that it was time for more than just a change in policy. After five years of debate in the health service system, the city council has finally approved federal funding for sex changes for transsexual employees. They will be the only governmental body in the nation to pay for the procedure.Supporters of the funding say that it is a civil rights issue. “We have an insurance issued that will pay for a hysterectomy in Mary, but not in Marcus,” said Marcus Arana, a transgender San Francisco Human Rights Commission discrimination investigator. Only fourteen of the city’s employees are transsexuals, but the coverage will cost over three-quarters of one million dollars per year.

For male-to-female surgery, the average cost is $37,000, while female-to-male is about $77,000.

Government agencies should not pay for sex changes. It isn’t a matter of civil rights or prejudice. Sexual preference and orientation has no place in the hiring process or worker treatment and it shouldn’t have any place in the employee benefits packages. Why doesn’t the city pay for Marcus’s hysterectomy? Because he doesn’t have a uterus! It isn’t because he’s a transsexual. He is not being discriminated against by the city.

A sex change is not a life saving procedure in any physiological sense. The city says it will only pay for the procedure when a doctor deems it medically necessary—that would mean from a mental health aspect. However, people can have just as many problems with their appearance as with their sexual identity and the city refuses to pay for cosmetic surgery. Paying for sex changes would open a floodgate of possibilities. If the city pays for this, why not nose jobs? The real question asked should be isn’t there something more pressing the city could spend its money on? Why isn’t it being spent on improving all employees’ benefits?

It is ridiculous to ask all 37,000 employees to pay for the benefits of fourteen. It is not life threatening like AIDS or cancer, and it is certainly a far cry from basic health needs, like dental care. If there are people who feel that they need to be the other sex, that is their choice, but they can pay for it themselves. Employees should be able to spend their money how they see fit. All employees should be expected to tolerate those who are different, but they shouldn’t have to pay for those differences.