Colorado's mixed report on transgender issues 

click to enlarge Gavin Grimm worked for trans rights. - GEOFF LIVINGSTON / FLICKR.COM
  • Geoff Livingston / Flickr.com
  • Gavin Grimm worked for trans rights.

In the past few weeks there has been a lot of bad news for transgender Coloradans. And good news. And sort of OK news.

Battle lines are being drawn at the state and federal level. President Donald Trump and the U.S. Supreme Court damaged the rights of trans students. In Colorado, legislators once again are advancing a bill meant to help trans folks. And, one prominent trans woman told us that she's suddenly unable to get health care at the local U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) clinic. Here's a quick update on where all those changes stand:

The VA: Air Force vet and Democratic Party notable Shari Zabel let us know that the trans-specific health care she had been receiving from the local VA clinic is no more. Zabel says she went in for a regular appointment and was told that the Colorado Springs clinic would no longer be offering services to her, and she'd have to go to Denver for hormones. The change was especially jarring for Zabel because she's just had surgery, and post-op appointments are particularly important.

"The exam and everything else that should have happened didn't happen," she told us.

We checked with the VA to figure out what was going on. They wrote back saying that there had been no policy change.

"Care for transgender veterans is highly complex and can sometimes fall outside the scope of practice for some health care providers," the response read in part. "In our Colorado Springs facility, we are currently without a provider who can provide the appropriate higher level care for some transgender patients. For this reason, some veterans may be referred to other VA facilities or providers in the community. ... We are working on having another provider for transgender care in our Colorado Springs clinic, but understandably this may take time for proper training and/or hiring."

The Colorado Legislature: House Bill 1122, which would allow trans Coloradans to change the gender on their birth certificates, won voice-vote House approval. (Notably, Zabel testified in favor of the bill.) Right now, only trans Coloradans who get gender reassignment surgery can get their birth certificates changed. Not all trans people want the surgery, and even those who do may not be able to afford it or may not be considered healthy enough to undergo the surgery. The bill would allow the change with or without surgery, with a simple affidavit from a licensed health care professional.

Non-matching birth certificates, by the way, can impede a person's ability to secure a job or vote, among other problems.

Versions of the Birth Certificate Modernization Act were proposed in the state Legislature in 2015 and 2016, but died in committee in the Republican-controlled Senate. With the Senate still controlled by Republicans, HB 1122 likely faces steep odds.

Schools: First, Trump lifted an Obama-era directive that instructed public schools nationwide to allow students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms that corresponded to their gender identity. Then the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the Gavin Grimm case, and vacated an appeals court decision that had favored the 17-year-old trans boy, who wanted to use the boys' bathroom in his Virginia school. That meant that trans kids weren't protected in every state.

They are, however, protected in Colorado thanks to a 2008 state law that protects trans people's right to public accommodations. We checked in with a few local school districts — Colorado Springs School District 11, Academy School District 20, School District 49 and Harrison School District 2 — and all said nothing had changed and trans kids were being accommodated.

This article has been updated to reflect legislative action that took place after our deadline.


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