Medicare Now Covers Gender-Reassignment Surgery, Because the Law is Catching Up to Reality

The U.S. took another step toward transgender equality on Friday. Medicare will now cover gender reassignment surgery, the Obama administration announced, putting an end to a discriminatory ban on the procedure that had been in place for more than three decades. The administration's Department of Health and Human Services had been reviewing the ban before it was summarily dumped.

Advocates of the transgender community heralded the change as another step toward ending public discrimination targeting people — and there are many — who don't fit into neat check-marked boxes. Many see gender-reassignment surgery as a necessary step toward becoming who they feel they were born to be.

Judith Bradford, a co-chair of the LGBT advocate Fenway Group, told the Post that the removal of the ban was a long time coming.

This is long overdue. It brings government policy in line with the science around transpeople’s healthcare needs.

When the ban was instituted in 1981, The Washington Post reported, the surgeries were considered experimental and dangerous. Now it's seen as a step in treatment for gender dysphoria.

The lifting of the ban wasn't the only good news advocates for equal rights received Friday. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced at the historic Stonewall Inn that the National Park Service would start installing markers at locations central to the shared history of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Americans. That's another step toward acknowledging that the country is coming to terms with a long history of discrimination directed at those groups.

Also this week, Laverne Cox became the first transgender person to grace the cover of Time magazine (how had that not happened yet?), in a story about how transgender rights may just be the next frontier when it comes to the fight for equal rights for all in the U.S.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images News/Getty Images

There's still a lot of work to be done when it comes to LGBT rights and equality. But it's undeniably exciting to see the Obama administration taking some steps to aid transgender people seeking reassignment surgery, not to mention watching the Park Service start to recognize the long history of the fight for LGBT rights.