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Thursday, March 30, 2017

New Developments on the Sage Smith Case

Today (3/30/17), the Daily Progress reports that THREE MONTHS AGO the Charlottesville Police Department classified Sage Smith's disappearance as a homicide. Why was this not announced by the Charlottesville Police Department in December when they reclassified the case as a homicide investigation?

I can only speculate that the reason this has happened after four long agonizing years for Sage's family is that it was because she was a transgender woman, not a U.Va. coed who went missing. Remember all the resources poured into the cased of two U.Va. women who went missing? Perhaps their lives were more valuable because they came from wealthy families that attended a prestigious university, not some poor transgender woman of approximately the same age demographic as the missing U.Va. students. Perhaps I am being unfairly cynical, but I don't think so.

I do find it very disturbing that the Charlottesville Police Department reclassified this case as a homicide in December and is just now making that known to the public, almost four months later. What are we to make of that?

Here is the article from today's Daily Progress.

 Search for Sage Smith now a homicide investigation

More than four years ago, Sage Smith took a walk near West Main Street in Charlottesville on her way to meet an acquaintance and was never seen again.
On Wednesday, Charlottesville police said they are now investigating the case as a homicide.
“Sage wouldn’t have just walked off,” Smith’s grandmother Lolita “Cookie” Smith said. “Somebody took Sage from me. Something happened.”
Charlottesville police reclassified the case in December but waited to release the information publicly out of consideration for Smith’s family, Lt. Steve Upman said. After a shuffle in positions and roles at the police department, detectives also wanted time to take a fresh look at the case. There are no new searches planned, he said.
Smith, a transgender woman, was last seen Nov. 20, 2012, when she left an apartment on Harris Street and walked toward West Main Street to meet someone, according to police. The case was first classified as a missing person investigation and has remained active since Smith’s disappearance.
Police said Wednesday that the reclassification means the case is now a criminal investigation, which opens up resources outside the department — such as the United States Marshals Service — and could add weight to investigative tools such as search warrants.
“A missing person is not a criminal case, so we do not have the same investigative leeway,” Upman said. “By moving it to a criminal matter, it affords us not only additional resources outside the agency, but [also] provides more opportunities to search phone records and computers, that kind of thing.”
“That was not the reason to change it, but those are opened up,” he added.
City police said in 2012 that they had limited power to search Smith’s credit card and cellphone records because the case was not a criminal investigation.
Though police said they don’t have evidence of foul play, they reclassified the case because of its suspicious nature and how much time has passed with no sign of Smith. No single element of the investigation led to the decision, Upman said, but all the available evidence made it the most appropriate step.
Calling her granddaughter a “happy, go-lucky person” who loved to dance, Lolita Smith said she is angry that it took Charlottesville police so long to reclassify the case.
“Frankly, I don’t understand why they waited so long,” she said. “It’s been four years. I think the Charlottesville Police Department dropped the ball from day one.”
“I’m angry,” she said. “I don’t understand how some cases can be solved within a matter of days or weeks and my grandchild’s case hasn’t been solved yet.”
Police said they have been in contact with the family since the case began and are actively working to resolve it.
“It remains an active investigation and one we’re committed to hopefully solving,” Upman said.
Police said they designated the case as a homicide, rather than a death investigation, because there is not yet any hard evidence that Smith is dead.
“We haven’t heard from him since he went missing,” Upman said. “We’re hopeful death is not the outcome, but there is no new evidence and nobody has heard from him.”
The last person seen with Smith — who was 19 when she disappeared — was Erik Tyquan McFadden, then 25, who has since disappeared, as well. Police called McFadden a person of interest in the case, describing him as a black male, standing at 5 feet 10 inches, with black hair and brown eyes.
When he learned the case was reclassified, Bemeche Hicks, a friend of the Smith family, said he was glad to hear it brought back into the spotlight.
“I’m curious as to what information they have to make it into a homicide investigation, but I’m glad to know they have reopened it, more or less,” Hicks said. “Maybe they’ll get more information to bring people forward — whether it’s people who have information or maybe are associated criminally.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Texas Federal Judge Grants Injunction to Group Who Wants to Discriminate against Trans People's Right to Health Care

Yesterday, I read an article online in the Washington Examiner that a Federal judge in Texas granted a temporary injunction against regulations in the Affordable Care Act that mandates health care providers provide medically necessary health care services to people who identify as transgender.

 "The Catholic Benefits Association, which represents more than 700 Catholic employers including many hospitals, filed a lawsuit in federal court Dec. 28 in an effort to get its members exempted from the rule. Five states and several other Christian healthcare providers are already fighting the requirement in another case against the rule. A Texas judge halted the rule over the weekend.

The rule, which went into effect Jan. 1, says that doctors can't refuse to provide medically necessary health services within their scope of practice because of a patient's gender identity. For instance, a gynecologist couldn't refuse to perform a cervical Pap test for a transgender man .The rule doesn't explicitly require doctors to perform gender transition services, but it says providers can't refuse services they already provide based on discrimination. The Department of Health and Human Services wrote that it would deal with complaints of discrimination on a case-by-case basis, by looking into whether a doctor provides the same service when it's not related to gender transition.
"These provisions do not … affirmatively require covered entities to cover any particular procedure or treatment for transition-related care," the rule says." ( Washington Examiner 1/3/16)

Those who are suing believe that the rule can be interpreted so that medical providers would be compelled to specifically provide medical care for medications and procedures that are directly related to transitioning, such as prescribing hormones, gender reassignment surgery, feminizing voice therapy, or mental health services.

I think that their argument is specious at best; no health care professional can be compelled to practice in an area that they have no training or expertise (or interest for that matter). As a transsexual, I would not wish to place my health care for specific services that related to my own transition in the hands of a provider who did not have expertise in those areas related to my transition and ongoing medical care.

However, there are many areas of health care that we receive that have nothing to do with our transition. For instance, everyone needs to have the blood chemistrys, lipids and blood counts done done once or twice a year as part of routine health care. People need to be treated for high blood pressure and screened for breast cancer, colorectal cancers and other health conditions related to aging, regardless of their gender identity if they are biologically at risk for these conditions. I'm reminded of Robert Eads, who had ovarian cancer and was unable to find health care professionals in Georgia who refused to investigate symptoms that suggested cancer until it was too late for him to be cured and he died needlessly due to blatant discrimination based on his identity. I think such callous treatment of any human being is criminal.

It is concerning that some members of the new Trump Administration appear to be opposed to transgender rights established by the Obama Administration, notable Vice President elect Mike Pence. The nominee for the Health and Human Services Tom Price has also voiced opposition to the Obama Administration's policies as well, but Obama's agenda included allowing those who have not had gender reassignment surgery to use locker rooms and showers with cis gender individuals and personally, while I am for free access to public rest rooms, I think the Obama Administration's position on locker rooms and shower facilities were only trying to create a political wedge issue and there would have been much less opposition to enacting rules that allow for bathroom use only. 

It is difficult to find whether these individuals are strictly anti trans in every circumstance or whether they have more nuanced views. Primarily, I find the truth difficult to come by because the media is openly biased and does not report the news objectively any more. Transpeople are lumped in with GLB coalitions and people don't even understand who we are. The media certainly doesn't distinguish in reporting news that pertains to us. In any case, I think that if a health care professional refuses to provide medically necessary treatment that is non transition in nature, that health care provider should lose their license to practice.

 Again, time will tell. Mr. Trump himself appears to be at worst, neutral towards transgender people, and in some instances has expressed support for us.

I think it is incumbent for us to communicate with our legislators of every political persuasion by writing to them and writing in a respectful and well reasoned tone about what we believe. If one wants to persuade a legislature, one should not engage in hyperbole or be antagonistic in nature. We have more to gain by respecting civility, rather than engaging in a rant.