Opinion: Now’s the time for nondiscrimination

Opinion: Now’s the time for nondiscrimination

I believe all businesses should make clear that discrimination is wrong.

  • Monday, April 20, 2020 10:56pm
  • Opinion

As the medical director of the only clinic in Anchorage that markets to LGBTQ Alaskans, it is my job to provide care and find resources for people who may face difficulties due to discrimination.

During this time when our collective society’s well-being relies on every person following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-recommended safety measures, including being able to see a doctor, we must ensure that no one faces barriers to care due to discrimination.

Many of my clients have had claims denied by their insurance providers simply because of who they are or who they love. I work hard to correct this.

I make it very clear that the doors at my clinic are open to all. I believe all businesses should make clear that discrimination is wrong and stand up for the equal treatment of LGBTQ people.

Right now, the Supreme Court is deliberating three cases that will determine whether employers can discriminate against LGBTQ staffers — and the decision could have far-reaching ripple effects in other areas as well. For example, a loss at the Supreme Court could mean that doctor’s offices and health insurance providers will no longer be barred at the federal level from discriminating against LGBTQ people — a devastating decision at a time when we should be doing everything we can to ensure everyone has access to health services.

At the same time, Alaska badly needs to pass into law statewide nondiscrimination protections that protect LGBTQ people in all areas of life. LGBTQ people should be able to work hard, find housing and receive medical care without fear of harassment or discrimination.

Nondiscrimination laws would be lifesaving and show that our government is committed to providing safety to all Alaskans. It would help create safe spaces, safe schools, safe businesses and safe communities.

I identify as gender expansive, meaning I don’t really feel tied to any single gender identity. When I came out, I was a consultant for the Department of Juvenile Justice. I was working with attorneys and law enforcement and I immediately noticed a shift in how they treated me. After I cut my hair short and looked less “feminine,” people told me I appeared less trustworthy.

My clients face this type of discrimination regularly. They’ve been fired for being gay or denied housing due to their relationship or gender identity. This happens in Anchorage even though we have citywide protections.

When people face discrimination, it’s often not the first time. They have often been traumatized over and over and have a lack of trust in seeking legal protection. This is a generation of people who experienced Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and other discriminatory policies and it is exacerbated by a lack of statewide protections.

Because LGBTQ people have faced barriers to care in the past — like unwelcoming attitudes at the doctor’s office or a lack of understanding by medical staff, they often fear going to the doctor. I often see denials of referrals for my trans patients, even when it’s not for gender related care.

I provide telemedicine services to people throughout Alaska who don’t feel comfortable going to their doctor. This is also important for people living in rural communities and small towns or villages. They may not have access to a doctor that is competent in providing health care to LGBTQ people.

My mission is to provide evidence-based compassionate trauma informed care to all patients regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, family make up, or any other identities that make up a person. Studies show that people who are protected from discrimination are less likely to commit suicide or harm themselves and live a happier and more satisfied life.

I have about 300 patients and almost half identify as LGBTQ. My office has its own nondiscrimination policies but it’s long past time for the Supreme Court and the state of Alaska to affirm that dignity and respect should never depend on who you are, who you love, or what zip code you call home. It’s a matter of life and death.

• Dr. Tracey Wiese is the owner and medical director of Full Spectrum Health in Anchorage.

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