Gender-affirming care (GAC) is a term that encompasses a variety of medical and social interventions that aim to support and affirm the gender identity of transgender and nonbinary people.
GAC can include counseling, hormone therapy, puberty blockers, surgery, and legal recognition of one’s gender. GAC has been shown to improve the mental and physical health, well-being, and quality of life of transgender and nonbinary individuals.
On Monday, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan signed an executive order that prohibits state agencies from discriminating against or denying access to GAC for transgender and nonbinary residents.
The order also directs state agencies to develop policies and procedures to ensure that GAC is covered by state health insurance plans and Medicaid. Additionally, the order establishes a task force to monitor and evaluate the implementation and impact of the order.
Governor Hogan said in a statement that his order is “a clear and unequivocal message that Maryland is a place where everyone is welcome, where everyone is respected, and where everyone can access the health care they need.” He added that he hopes his order will serve as a model for other states to follow.
The order was praised by LGBTQ+ advocates and health care providers, who said it will save lives and reduce health disparities for transgender and nonbinary people in Maryland.
According to a 2015 survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality, 33% of transgender Marylanders reported experiencing discrimination in health care settings, 23% reported avoiding seeking health care due to fear of mistreatment, and 40% reported having attempted suicide at some point in their lives.
Dr. Katherine Imborek, co-director of the LGBTQ Clinic at UI Health Care in Iowa City, said that GAC is “a medical necessity, like providing insulin to a person with diabetes.” She explained that GAC helps transgender and nonbinary people feel more comfortable and confident in their bodies and identities, which can reduce depression, anxiety, and suicide risk.
“Gender-affirming care is not just medication. It’s much deeper than that,” she said. “It’s about respecting and honoring who people are.”