A transgender woman in Oregon has filed a lawsuit against her insurance companies and employer, alleging that they discriminated against her for not paying for her facial feminization surgery.
Christina Ketchman has already had sex reassignment surgery, hormone replacement therapy, changed her name, worked with a voice coach and changed her hairstyle and clothes to look more like a woman. Her doctors also advised for her to undergo facial feminization surgery.
Asaf Orr, one of Ketchman’s lawyers, said that the surgery can cost anywhere between $20,000 and $40,000.
“Facial feminization surgery is hugely transformative,” Orr said.
The World Professional Association for Transgender Health states that facial feminization surgery isn’t “cosmetic’ or ‘elective’ or ‘for the mere convenience of the patient.’”
However, Citycounty Insurance Services, which provides coverage to Clatsop County employees, and Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon, which administers the plan, have denied Ketchman’s request to pay for the surgery.
Ketchman has been employed at Clatsop County for almost 30 years and says that she’s suffered from distress while waiting for her insurer to pay for her facial surgery.
“Ms. Ketcham continues to be perceived by others as male,” the lawsuit said. “Her facial features and the shape of her face frequently lead others to call Ms. Ketcham ‘sir,’ ‘mister’ or ‘he-she,’ and to treat her as a man.”
The suit states that Regence “categorically excludes coverage of facial-feminization procedures” by “wrongly deeming them ‘not medically necessary’” as a treatment for gender dysphoria.
“As a young person, Ms. Ketcham’s family and community did not provide any support or options for her to live as a woman consistent with her gender identity,” the suit adds. “As a result, she spent most of her life trying to conform to male stereotypes and living outwardly as a man, despite the severe emotional distress this caused her.”
Ketchman is seeking $375,000 in damages from the lawsuit.