“Discrimination” is often nowadays a bad word but I don’t think that this moral taint stands up to scrutiny in many of the contexts where it is used.
Transgender girls, if evaluated on merit, have some inherent basic benefits. We are genetic anomalies but we are not weak or flawed, as caring folks sometimes imply. Were transgender girls to simply be treated as we deserve, we would not need a slew of lawyers and regulators to coddle us with anti-discrimination laws or lawsuits. And, someone might be totally within his or her rights even if unfair in his or her treatment of transgender girls — or Hispanics, or black people, or Irish, or Catholics, or Protestants. Laws or lawsuits to enforce reasonable behavior tend to be counterproductive, and are themselves unreasonable behavior. Yes, unfair behavior is a huge problem, but the solutions that I advocate are not laws or lawsuits but justice — specifically administered by bringing bad behavior to light. This brings me to the subject of this post, specific to life insurance.
Were I to manage a life insurance company in which one policyholder has a death wish, is suicidal and works as a stunt dummy … whereas another policyholder has a family history of growing to be 110+ years old and seems well on her way to following in those footsteps, then I’d be delighted to discriminate against the former. I would charge the former person a vastly higher premium assuming I chose to even write the policy at all.
Were I in charge of the world, I’d fire every Insurance Commissioner and I’d abolish all the anti-discrimination laws and judgements and let the insurance companies insure whomever they want under whatever conditions they choose to offer, and if someone chooses that deal of their own free will, that’s all there is to it.
In such a context, as in life, people would evaluate others based on whether their behavior were reasonable, or not — and in the long run, they would reward reasonable behavior, and the market mechanism would do its good work.
With all that in mind, this brings me to an email I wrote to the Kansas City Life insurance company. The email asked about how I make a change as to the beneficiary, and I also wrote:
“I’ve also recently found out that I’m transgender. I’ve gone through the legal process so that I’m now classified officially by my correct gender, female, including showing it as such on my driver’s license. Please look in the official records for Nevada under driver’s license 0401033xxx for confirmation so you don’t have to take my word for it. I also plan to be changing my name in the near future and when I have the paperwork for that I plan to advise you. Incidentally, there’s a lot of confusion on the subject of being transgender. It’s not a gender change. Someone like me literally has female brain wiring, physically. There’s no evidence to support it being something that develops while (or subsequent to) growing up, so that leaves “at birth” as the only logical alternative. So, I’m not asking you to make a change. I’m asking you to make a correction to reflect something that’s been in effect since 1962, when I was born. Thank you.”
I got the paperwork for the beneficiary change, and a deafening silence as to the transgender aspect. This didn’t bode well. So, I wrote:
I have received the “change of beneficiary” form, thank you. However, if there was anything in the documentation as to the transgender aspect, I didn’t see it. Did I miss it? Did you send it? Did you make the change? Is that in a separate letter, yet to come?
I don’t have their permission to quote their reply, so I won’t. It basically comes down to them being unable to make a change, and the reasoning that the lady explained doesn’t scan as a grammatically lucid sentence regardless of how many times I re-read it. Still, the gist of it seems to be that, at birth, I had the sex parts and genetics of a male, and that’s that.
They’re right. I did have male sex parts at birth. If I didn’t, the doctor wouldn’t have checked “M” on the birth certificate after looking at my genitalia. Being transgender isn’t something that is apparent from external inspection. At birth, a transgender girl looks like a genetically integrated male. That’s, um, fundamental to the entire issue. So, when I tell someone that I’m a transgender girl, that has the inherent premise that, yup, I was born with male sex parts. Hearing that fed back to me wasn’t helpful.
I wasn’t born with male sex parts due to a curse from the Mummy; I had (and have) XY chromosomes. I’m quite sure. I had them tested by a DNA lab (yes, really). Being a transgender girl and having XY chromosomes is, incidentally, not a given. A friend of mine is a transgender girl and she doesn’t have XY chromosomes but instead has XXY chromosomes. I wonder what box the life insurance company would like her to check, on their premises.
As I understand the insurance company’s reference to, um, sex parts, the mere presence of male sex parts reduces life expectancy. That line of reasoning would suggest that John Wayne’s Bobbitt’s life expetancy increased dramatically as soon as his external urination tube was cut off with a knife. I don’t personally see the logic to that. I’m aware that circumcision is alleged to have health benefits, but I think this is one place where “more is better”, as to removing tissue, doesn’t have a scientific basis.
As to the chromosome-related issue, independent of brain wiring, I address that in my reply to the insurance company (read on).
As to the insurance company claiming that they are unable to make the change, that’s sort of like a racist white girl telling a black guy she can’t date him because her dating policy, sadly, prohibits that. She can, of course, change her dating policy. Phrasing the issue as if it’s carved in stone just makes her seem as silly as the life insurance company does when it claims it cannot consider transgender girls to be, well, girls.
Anyway, here’s what I wrote in response to their reply:
Thank you for your reply. I didn’t like that the transgender half of my questions was ignored until I sent you a follow-up email. I also didn’t like your reply.
Please do escalate this issue up your management chain of command.
Also, please consider this correspondence to be on record, meaning that my half of it is likely to circulate around the Internet in the near future.
I made you aware that I’m transgender, not as a caprice but as formal change that is, for example, reflected in my Nevada driver’s license. You replied that even so, you won’t be able to change the gender on the life insurance policy because at birth the physical and genetic sex characteristics were male (is what I understand your point to be, it’s not super-clear what you wrote). You also invited me to call with any additional concerns. I do have concerns but I’d rather handle them in writing.
You’re an insurance company and you operate based on your own rules as to this sort of thing, so you can of course make the change I requested. It’s not a question of not being able to, it’s a question of choosing not to.
Presumably, when you write new policies, you don’t run DNA tests on the people or stare very carefully at their private parts, so when someone marks that she’s female on her insurance application form, I presume that’s all there is to it. I suspect that you insisting on the gender as written on the birth certificate (not to be confused with the gender at birth — key point), in a context wider than this email, is likely to end up with you being in the center of a firestorm of angry folks, some of whom have their lawyer on speed-dial.
Personally, I think you have every right to discriminate however you choose, since it’s your money and since dealing with you is an entirely voluntary, private association. However, I do think you’re being unreasonable and you, and the rest of the planet, might as well know it.
Basically, a transgender girl is someone who has a female brain structure, and the best available evidence suggests that this is already the case at birth. Presumably, many of the issues that make males more likely to die sooner are not linked to being an “outie” vs. an “innie” “down there.”.
Rather, a person’s brain structure seems likely to make them react to issues in a way that’s likely to cause […] them to live longer — or not. All other things being equal, a male’s brain structure is likely to inspire the person to do things that are more dangerous, including in a choice of career. The typical male approach to issues is competitive; the typical female approach is collaborative. As we analyze the issues more and more, we can come up with a very long list of reasons why the person’s brain structure is pivotal to insurance risk.
But, there’s more. Genetically integrated women (female brain, XX chromosomes) live longer than males in spite of the fact that they also are far more likely to have breast cancer, and are also at risk for cancer in their reproductive organs, which a girl like me lacks. If we’re focusing on chromosomes, then one more major male genetic risk factor is prostate cancer, and many or most transgender girls take hormones that just so happen to reduce the risk of … prostate cancer.
So, all other things being equal, it seems to me that the risk for insuring a transgender girl is less than the risk for insuring a genetically integrated male or a genetically integrated female. There is one major risk factor for transgender girls though. Transgender girls (who are less resilient than I) do have a higher-than-average risk of depression and suicide due to, ironically, an accumulation of the sort of discrimination that, in supreme irony, your company has just shown itself to be one more example of.
I have been a policy holder for so long that when I show up at my insurance agent, her eyebrows go up due to how far back she has to look to when the story began. Nevertheless, I don’t intend to keep sending you $45+ every month until one day your management finally comes around to doing the reasonable thing. So, I’m hereby canceling my policy, after all these years, effective ASAP.
I suspect that not every transgender girl whom you insure is likely to have as crisp a grasp of her rights and privileges as I do, and if my personal cynicism carries the day, my guess is that your management will continue to be dismissive of this issue until some class action lawsuit drains much of your hard-earned money into some attorney’s new summer home.
I wouldn’t agree with the premises of such a lawsuit, since I believe that you, as a private company, have every right to be unreasonable in your terms and conditions, and if someone nevertheless agrees to them, it’s a valid contract and life goes on. But, at an emotional level, I can certainly understand the feelings that will inspire a less principled individual to initiate such a lawsuit.
It’s sort of like the lady who spilled hot coffee in her lap and wrote McDonalds, who (as I recall the story, sent her a snide and mean reply). She then got mad, sued McDonalds and won. No, she wasn’t in the right, but it might have been better for McDonalds to be nice about it, without caving in on principle. The same premises apply here. While remaining within your rights, you can be unreasonable, or not. Either choice has consequences.
Anyway, since I’m canceling my policy, it’s not really my issue any more, but I do suspect it’s an issue in your company’s future.
Update: I received a mailed standard letter stating that if I want to change my name, here’s the form to complete, and if I really do want to cancel my policy, here’s the form to complete. Nothing in either letter responded to the above, i.e., it was totally ignored.