This week I had the honor of speaking at yet another groundbreaking Obama Administration LGBT effort: an all-day, web-broadcast Summit on LGBT Senior Housing, held in the headquarters of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and co-sponsored by the Administration on Aging.
Personally, it was a pleasure to be in a room with many of the people who have been working on LGBT aging issues for decades. Not surprisingly, some of the break-time conversations revolved around how long we have been working on these issues and our awe and gratitude for the sudden explosion of progress over the past three years. The day before we met, Hilary Clinton gave a breakthrough United Nations speech devoted to LGBT rights worldwide, accompanied by a Presidential Memorandum directing the heads of all executive departments and agencies to support international initiatives to advance the human rights of LGBT people.
An even more amazing change – one not spearheaded by a very LGBT-friendly Administration – came the day after the LGBT Senior Housing Summit. Yesterday the Human Rights Campaign issued its tenth edition of the Corporate Equality Index, announcing that the number of large corporations who now cover transgender surgeries under their employee health care plans has quadrupled since 2009. Two hundred seven (207) of the 636 corporations surveyed now cover at least $75,000 worth of surgery for transitioning transgender employees. (See the full report at http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/corporate-equality-index-2011)
To be honest, I’ve put no energy into efforts to get publicly-funded health plans to cover transgender-related surgery, believing that this was one of those “not in my lifetime” goals. But as I told a colleague on Wednesday, when I began doing LGBT work in 1975, the idea of gay marriage never crossed our minds – it was almost literally unthinkable. Yet here we are, well down the tracks of an unstoppable train to full marriage equality. And so it is that I must adjust my own hopes and expectations of what is achievable in the face of irrefutable evidence that for the second time in my idealistic lifetime, social evolution has passed me by and I must run to catch up. We’ll see full coverage of transgender survey not just in my lifetime, but far sooner than we might think.