Being transgender is a mental disorder, Israeli insurance company tells trans man

Being transgender is a mental disorder, according to an Israeli insurance company.

Ayalon Insurance, an insurance company located in Israel, refused to cover the charges of a mastectomy one of their clients, a transgender man, underwent a year-and-a-half ago.

Ayalon declined to cover the cost of the procedure on the grounds that they didn’t cover mental disorders of psychiatric treatments, according to Haaretz.

The company argued that their policy didn’t cover “mental disorders and/or mental illnesses and/or mental treatments and/or psychiatric treatments.”

The client, who hasn’t been named, feels the company is being discriminatory. “My classification as transgender has nothing to do with mental disorder,” he told Haaretz. “This is an unfair and wrong generalisation.”

Now in his early twenties, the man began hormone therapy when he was still in high school.

“I was very lucky that everyone, family and friends, supported me,” he said. “So the process was on the whole positive. All this makes the insurance company’s decision unusual, dramatic and offensive.“

He added this was the first time he had experienced some form of discrimination because of his trans identity.

The man has now appealed the company’s decision with the help of the Human Rights Clinic at Tel Aviv University.

Ayalon argued that since the client had been diagnosed with gender dysphoria, the surgery was intended to “solve a serious mental problem,” not a physical one.

An insurance company claimed being trans was a mental disorder. ((SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty)

“It’s hard to hear that I have a mental disorder just because I’m trans. It’s very frustrating,” the client said.

“If insurance companies are ready to pay for breast reduction surgery for men, or breast reconstruction for female cancer patients, then refusing to finance surgery for one who was born in the wrong body is simply discrimination,” his mother commented.

“I felt as though I was hit very painfully. It’s so wrong, and hurtful. He’s a very intelligent boy, but doesn’t have much self-confidence,” she added.

“If the insurance company, with all its knowledge and experience, says it’s a mental illness – then maybe [he’ll think] it’s really an illness. It was very hard for me to see how they hurt my boy like that. Being transgender isn’t a mental illness.”

Indian supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community hold placards as they participate in a pride parade in Chennai on June 24, 2018. (ARUN SANKAR/AFP/Getty)

In the appeal, Nir Binyamini, one of the lawyers helping Ayalon’s client with the case at the Human Rights Clinic, stressed that gender dysphoria was not a mental disorder but ”a diagnostic category that recognises human differences and the difficulties and distress that accompany gender unsuitability. The need for surgery stemmed from the patient’s gender unsuitability and was meant to correct it.”

“It’s regrettable that a large insurance agency adopts a position reflecting stereotyping and ignorance regarding sex-change surgery, and is tainted with discrimination against the entire transgender population. Sex-change processes are known worldwide and in Israel as clinical procedures, for which there is a clear medical necessity,” they said.

In June, the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced that being transgender was no longer considered a mental illness. Instead, they recognised being trans as a matter of sexual health.

“It was taken out from the mental health disorders because we had a better understanding that this wasn’t actually a mental health condition and leaving it there was causing stigma,” said WHO’s coordinator of Adolescents and at-Risk Populations team Dr. Lale Say.

Ayalon said they “respect every person and [are] very proud to be an organisation that respects gender diversity. Rejecting the suit is based on medical documents the claimant himself submitted, as well as on updated professional psychiatric literature.”