Arizona Provides Me Unequal Healthcare Because I’m Transgender

I’m a professor of family studies and human development at the University of Arizona, and I have dedicated my career to studying how discrimination impacts LGBTQ adolescents. I’m also transgender, and I know from experience that growing up is different — and still much more difficult — for LGBTQ youth. So it came as a disappointment when I learned that the state university where I work does not cover transition-related healthcare for its employees or their dependents.

On Wednesday, I filed a class-action lawsuit against the state of Arizona and the Arizona Board of Regents, which oversees the state’s universities, to rectify the damage done to transgender state employees, like me, and dependents. The fact that the state of Arizona’s health insurance coverage categorically excludes transition-related surgery is a violation of federal civil rights laws and the U.S. Constitution.

Arizona provides the same discriminatory health plan to nearly all state employees and their dependents. That means hundreds, if not thousands, of transgender state employees or transgender dependents of state employees cannot receive medically necessary care recommended by their doctors, such as a mastectomy or a hysterectomy. This is true even though that same care would be covered for cisgender people, individuals who identify with the sex they were assigned at birth.

I know of at least 20 families affiliated with the University of Arizona that are harmed by the state’s anti-trans health insurance policy. Without a doubt, there are many more across the state. I filed this lawsuit not only for me but also for all of the transgender and nonbinary youth and adults in Arizona whose lives would be made better by knowing that there is one less law that discriminatorily targets them.

Research shows that when adolescents are able to live authentically and begin gender-affirming treatment that is appropriate for them, they look just like their cisgender peers in terms of their mental health. The problem is, there are too many roadblocks to authenticity for transgender people. Hostile family members, discrimination in the community, and unfair government policies, like the one I’m fighting, are just a few of the factors that stop transgender people from being themselves.

A study I recently published in the journal Pediatrics confirmed that transgender teens have a much higher suicide risk than their cisgender peers. My co-authors and I discovered that half of transmasculine adolescents have attempted suicide at least once before they turn 20. The same is true for more than 40 percent of nonbinary adolescents and nearly 30 percent of transfeminine adolescents. For cisgender adolescents, the rates are much lower: under 20 percent, regardless of gender.

I was in my early 20s when I began my gender transition. In 2004, I had a double mastectomy that cost me $8,000 out of pocket. I was just out of college, and my father-in-law had to co-sign a loan so that I could afford the procedure. I am fortunate that my family supports me and that we were able to take on that debt, but many people are not that lucky. There are a lot of people across Arizona who cannot access the health care they need unless it is covered by insurance.

That’s the situation I’m in now. My wife, Danielle, and I have two young children and are taking care of an aging parent. It’s not financially feasible for us to pay out of pocket for the procedure my doctor recommends, a hysterectomy. So, until Arizona’s discriminatory health plan is improved, I will be forced to live with aspects of my body that do not align with my identity and cause me significant anxiety.

A recent court ruling in Wisconsin held that denying state employees health insurance for gender-affirming medical care violates the Constitution and federal law. I hope for a similar result in Arizona. It will improve not only my life but the lives of many other Arizonans.

Transition-related surgery can be life-saving. No one should be denied medically necessary care because of who they are. Denying this care is not only wrong, but it is also against the law. The state of Arizona has a constitutional and moral duty to change its healthcare coverage to include transition-related health care.

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You are absolutely right. Transgender procedures are life saving procedures. The ignorance is mind boggling! I wish you luck in your class action suit.


The author is Dr. Russell B. Toomey, Associate Professor, The University of Arizona as he states directly underneath the title of the article and right next to his picture. His picture is confirmed in a picture with his wife.


So when you want to switch back to female, should the taxpayers be on the hook for that to? When does the bs stop with you people?


I don’t think you understand. Nowhere does Dr Toomey say he wants to be male for a specific amount of time, then “switch back” to female. He was born in a body that does not match his gender identity.

Those who seek medical transitions have minuscule rates of regret. For those who complete the transition, detransitioning completely is often medically impossible. So, no, you won't be on the hook. But, even if you WERE on the hook, you're already on the hook if a cisgender person gets a double mastectomy and then gets prosthetic breasts through the healthcare plan, or gets a hysterectomy and then goes on hormones. It's the same price, but trans people are discriminated against.


My partner and I are transgender and cannot get coverage through the state Ahcccs Health Choice plan. The state would rather we were dead. Living in semi rural No AZ we have zero access to tg care.


Hi, I'm writing a paper on this for my political science class. Is there any way you can provide something that shows where they do not allow transition-related surgeries? Something that shows in the health insurance policy for UofA that it excludes this? Anything will help. I hope you win this case... Thank you!

Daniel Grey

I was thinking about moving to Arizona in September but I as well am transgender and am on hormones. So in simple terms your saying they don’t support trans rights and won’t cover it medically ? Everything would have to be paid out of pocket)


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