A Student Is Suing After His Gender Affirmation Surgery Was Cancelled. Here's Why It Matters

Ari Robbins, a transgender law student, is suing his doctor for canceling his gender affirmation surgery, alleging that his doctor discriminated against him on the basis of sex and gender. According to the lawsuit, Dr. Mary Peters of Swedish Plastics and Aesthetics in Washington state allegedly cancelled Robbins' “simple procedure” because it was a “transgender surgery.” Bustle reached out to Swedish Plastics and Aesthetics for comment and will update this article when we receive a reply.

Robbins is a trans man who has been diagnosed with gender dysphoria, according to the lawsuit, which was filed by the ACLU. Gender affirmation surgery is a common form of treatment for people who have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria. In an interview with Rewire News, Robbins described the anxiety he got from going through security at the airport because his binder would set off the security scanners. Robbins claims he experienced chronic pain from binding his chest, so when Dr. Peters canceled his surgery three weeks before it was supposed to take place, Robbins claims he was distraught.

“I was shocked,” Robbins told Rewire. “It was getting to a very uncomfortable and unmanageable point and I felt like I didn’t know how much longer I had for my physical breaking point, how much longer I could deal with having breasts and not living the life that I wanted to live.”

And according to the lawsuit, Robbins wasn’t the only transgender patient whose surgery was cancelled. The lawsuit reads, “Defendants were not able to provide a plausible explanation for why they had cancelled his surgery — as well as the surgeries of several other transgender individuals.” Swedish Plastics and Aesthetics told Rewire via email that it could not comment on the lawsuit, but stated that the healthcare provider cares "for all of our patients regardless of race, color, religion, creed, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or any other protected status."

The suit alleges that Robbins was being discriminated against for being a trans man by Dr. Peters and Swedish Plastics and Aesthetics, which is part of Providence Health & Services, the state's largest health care provider. In addition to canceling his surgery, Dr. Peters allegedly referred to Robbins using incorrect pronouns in her notes, according to the lawsuit.

Robbins and the ACLU of Washington assert that denying him surgery is against Washington state law. “This is a case about protecting people in Washington from unlawful discrimination on the basis of sex and gender identity," reads the lawsuit. "Defendants’ denial of care to Mr. Robbins because he is transgender is unlawful sex and gender identity discrimination.”

According to the Transgender Law Center, over 30 states in the U.S. have a low or negative overall rating in terms of legal equality for transgender people. That means just over 50 percent of transgender Americans are living in states where they are likely to get discriminated against due to their gender identity. In the Transgender Law Center’s analysis, Washington state received a high, positive score, though, as this case shows, discrimination is possible in any state. In a survey from the National Center for Transgender Equality, 33 percent of transgender people who have recently seen a medical professional reported a negative experience that was directly related to their gender identity.

If Robbins wins this lawsuit, it won’t be a victory just for him: It will be a victory for other transgender people who have been discriminated against by doctors due to their gender identity.

“I just hope that people can start to learn to expect trans people,” he told Rewire. “I don’t think anybody fits exactly into the definitions of men and women that we all hold in our heads. I just hope that people can learn to expect trans people to exist.”