By D’Anne Witkowski
Honestly, it’s hard to keep up. Even with so many positions in the Trump Administration left unfilled, he’s still stacking the deck with swamp monsters. It seems like, in order to work in this administration, you have to have an utter disdain for whatever you’re going to be in charge of. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos hates public education. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson thinks the State Department is useless. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry is currently channeling his energy into bitching about the election of a gay student body president at Texas A&M.
And then there’s Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price, who cares about neither health nor humans, especially not LGBTQ humans.
So it should come as no surprise, but is still incredibly disappointing and gross, that Trump appointed Roger Severino to lead the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights.
So who is Roger Severino? Oh, just some guy from the rabidly anti-gay Heritage Foundation who use to be the director of the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society (yes, that DeVos).
Severino’s no fan of Section 1557, the nondiscrimination provision of the Affordable Care Act. He believes that medical professionals should be allowed to discriminate against transgender patients if said medical professional believes “that maleness and femaleness are biological realities to be respected and affirmed, not altered or treated as diseases.”
Which is interesting because while he claims to respect the biological realness of women, he sure doesn’t support their reproductive rights.
He also thinks marriage equality is a threat to religious liberty because it’s a religious right to discriminate against icky gay people, thank you very much.
Severino is an ardent defender of North Carolina’s anti-LGBT law HB2, often referred to as “the bathroom bill” because of its dumbfuckery telling trans people they basically can’t use public restrooms. HB2 has cost North Carolina, according to the Associated Press, nearly $4 billion dollars. But that’s a small price to pay for dehumanizing trans folk, apparently!
Considering that Severino’s job is now to ensure “that people have equal access and opportunities to participate in certain health care and human services programs without unlawful discrimination,” I’m sure he’ll protect LGBTQ rights real good.
“I could not think of a more dangerous person to head up the Office of Civil Rights at HHS,” Senior Vice President of Policy and Political Affairs of Human Rights Campaign JoDee Winterhof said in a statement. “Once again, Donald Trump is declaring war against our community by appointing anti-LGBTQ people at all levels of his administration. Mr. Severino takes pride in being a stark opponent of the LGBTQ community and has made it clear that his number one priority is to vilify and degrade us.”
Remember when Trump said “LGBTQ” during the Republican National Convention and people were all, “He’s a champion of equality!” It was a silly thing to believe then, and it’s completely delusional to believe now.
Severino’s appointment is, as Executive Director of National Center for Transgender Equality Mara Keisling, said in a statement, essentially “the fox in charge of the hen house.”
Keisling continued, “He has made attacking women’s and LGBT people’s access to health care one of the centerpieces of his career, while his baseless claims about protections for transgender people—repeated over and over without any regard for the consequences on transgender people’s lives—betray a fundamental misunderstanding of federal civil rights laws, medical science, the reality of what it means to be transgender.”
In other words, we can expect that the disregard for transgender health and lives to worsen under Severino, which is, no doubt, exactly how he wants it.
D’Anne Witkowski is a poet, writer and comedian living in Michigan with her wife and son. She has been writing about LGBT politics for over a decade. Follow her on Twitter @MamaDWitkowski.