Thursday, February 19, 2009

Ex-Trans Therapy Is AOK By HRC’s CEI

Imagine this for a second: there’s a generic firm that compiles an equality index on gay-friendly work environments in corporate, rating companies from a 0% to a 100% scale, based upon non-discrimination, healthcare policies and mental health policies. For corporations to achieve a perfect 100%, they must do all of the mentioned criteria.

Then let’s say you find out that the companies receiving a 100% perfect gay-friendly workplace award offered mental health counseling with Exodus, or any other ex-gay, reparative-therapy counseling – and not the type that was accepting of the individual’s sexual orientation. Would that be an expected, much less acceptable rating for that employer – 100% perfect? Or would that actually draw cries of foul, maybe protest? Would the gay and lesbian community seek to immediately discredit this arbiter of gay-friendly employers?

Do you think it’s far-fetched? Maybe it is for the gay and lesbian community.

But it’s a reality for the transgender community! Even more interesting, this is the current standard for the Corporate Equality Index (CEI) conducted by – yep, you guessed it!: The Human Rights Campaign (HRC). Yes our self-appointed conservators, those brave souls who “had the guts” to stand up for us in ENDA by cutting us out of the bill, have released their most recent CEI report noting all of the employers receiving a 100% perfect GLBT (as in transgender-inclusive) rating for pro-GLBT-friendly workplaces!

“Oppositional behavior is an integral part of homosexuality. I’m very certain that people who have same-sex attractions suffer from arrested development…. The penis and the vagina fit together. Two penises and two vaginas don’t work.” — Richard Cohen, Pres. of Parents & Friends of Ex-Gays

This was one of those nice discoveries we learned from GID Reform and its founder Kelley Winters in her most recent blog on the splashy presentation of HRC’s annual CEI HRC was proud to announce the 100% scores (the nirvana for both gay and lesbian prospective employees and employers seeking to attract the community) increasing from 195 to 260 – a 33.3% increase! ( You would be impressed by those numbers. And as it is a study that gauges not only employment policy for sexual orientation as well as gender identity, you would be duly impressed even if you were trans.

That is … until you begin looking at the details. Or what’s not in the details, more precisely.

To be fair, HRC has done a better job with their CEI than they have in past years, where criterion was insufficient from a trans perspective, and verification (if any) was spotty. Clearly it’s something that could continue today in isolated locations in some of these same companies (I’ve heard enough trans scare-stories from Hewlett-Packard’s Houston office as is, regardless of perfect rating). That’s not necessarily the fault of HRC. However, it does beg the question: do they check the stated policy veracity with trans employees? At least two other respondents to Kelley’s blog note their “perfect” employers weren’t quite so.

That said, I won’t quibble over most of the index measurements per se. The one that gets me is “reparative therapy” issue – essentially attempting to “cure” one of their transsexual manifestations. I had heard of someone right here in Houston “perfect” HP who heard from a supervisor that “you know we can fix that kind of thing” – as in cure, not assisting in transition. Her work environ was a bit non-supportive.

“[It] is a psychological and psychiatric disorder, there is no question about it. It is a purple menace that is threatening the proper design of gender distinctions in society.” — Dr. Charles Socarides, former Pres. of NARTH

Indeed Kelley’s blog also notes a case of an employee who received a similar comment made by the employer, and the employee then transitioned and was terminated. As her blog pointed out regarding mental health care:

“There is no stipulation in the CEI selection criteria to suggest that mental health care coverage offered by a 100% company must actually be in support of transition or respectful to the affirmed gender identity of the employee.”
Further, there’s no such distinctions in partners or family benefits on the same. As Kim Pearson, Exec. Dir. for Trans Youth Family Allies (TYFA) asked in response to the blog: “Non-transitioning employees have transitioning dependents...what about them? Transgender youth need appropriate medical care to ensure their survival. Is anyone asking these questions?”

Excellent question! If the standards for mental health were simply counseling, regardless of whether affirming the self-identity or reparative or aversion therapy, then what happens to parents who work at these “perfect” companies? A little electro-shock for Junior to keep him out of the dresses and heels? Maybe some faith-based curative therapy for Sissy to chase those demons out that make her want to cut the hair short, shave her face and wear hunting boots and men’s cut jeans? Yeah, maybe that’s a bit extreme … but is it really out of the realm of possibility under the overly loose definition of “mental health care”? I know in Texas I wouldn’t put it past them!

Playing devil’s advocate here, I must state that HRC has made statements through their trans business council rep, Meghan Stabler that the policy is changing, as she’s stated on both Donna Rose and Kelley’s blogs.

“From a high level here are the changes:
- The current "one of five" criteria will be gone! Replaced by coverage for "medically necessary treatments" as defined by Standards of Care ( WPATH ). Policy must reference said Standard of Care.
- That a medical plan not have exclusions based on "transgender", "gender identity" etc
- That proof of coverage be supplied at time of CEI submission.
- That there be a way to notify HRC Workplace should a plan fail to meet its promises and submitted CEI, so that HRC Workplace and work with the company to rectify.

I wish Kelly [sic] had called me to say this was going to be a posted note, as she had visited HRC DC with myself and Diego to talk with the HRC Workplace staff summer last year. We took note.

The announcement of the new CEI changes is late, I know, I am frustrated about that too. But changes will be announced in a matter of weeks, not months. The changes will be significant.”
Note that there wasn’t mention of “mental health benefits for counseling by a mental health professional,” but there could be a possibility it’s part of the changes to be determined. But the last part caught my eye about her frustration with the slow pace of change. Later Meghan also responds to Kelley:

“My only observation would be to maybe suggest that next time, when writing a piece like this with the concern about the CEI, why not call Daryl [Herrschaft] or Samir [Luther] directly and ask them "IF changes are coming", "IF so, what are they" and "IF so, when". She would have had answers.”
That rings a bit hollow to me. If she’s having the frustrations over the timing of these changes being a part of the HRC Business Council, it’s doubtful that Kelley would be able to pin down any more specific answers – quite the contrary.

Actually I do appreciate the pressure cooker one such as Meghan has to experience being the “HRC designate” for anything trans. We tend to have long histories and memories and long ago lost all patience, meanwhile she has to deal with what in civil rights work is a corporate behemoth. They’ll do what they want and establish their own agenda in their own time, and trannies – the bottom-feeders on the food chain to them – can like it or shove it It’s an untenable position being liaison between the two parties where nobody’s going to be pleased and everyone’s in the mood to shoot the messenger.

“We say God did not intend anyone to be this way - to be gay or lesbian.” — John Paulk, formerly of Exodus, now Focus On The Family

That said, even with the upcoming changes that are proposed for their CEI, one startling fact remains: HRC offers perfect ratings to those who offer counseling that’s even of the reparative, ex-Trans variety. So the questions beg: why is this just being attended to now, eight years after self-declaring they were including trans in their mission statement? This is equal? Are they now, or would they ever expect gays and lesbians to be okay with their employers’ perfect status for covering ex-Gay therapy?

What does this say about HRC’s ability to take a serious approach to trans equality when the real possibility exists that some of these “perfect” corporations could simply say they support us regardless of how untrue that may be in actuality, then simply do one of those four- or five- or six-figure contributions to HRC for banquet sponsorships or other sundry donations? Lord knows HRC is one of the most aggressive and slick fundraising organizations around, and they’d turn away virtually nothing as long as it’s generous.

And what were they thinking in presuming trans people were dumb enough to just go along with reparative therapy counseling as simply being an honest mistake? Just basing this on the level of hue and cry over Rick Warren or Prop 8, I surmise they would probably raise a stink if someone were congratulating “perfect” companies for counseling that included options for Exodus or other aversion or reparative therapies.

You know, I think we should be collectively just as indignant and offended for the level of fools HRC take us to be. But then again, this is the same HRC we’ve grown to know the past fifteen years plus, so maybe we shouldn’t be surprised.

I’m just saying ….

“There was Curt, his first love, who left him; his summer job as an $80-an-hour prostitute; and three years of performing as a drag queen. After his college pastor saved him, John tossed his high heels, dresses, jewelry and wigs into a Dumpster, telling "Candi" goodbye and "I don't need you anymore."” — from Praying Away The Gay by Margaret Carlson & Wendy Cole, Time Magazine 7/27/98


Polar said...

Where HRC is concerned, I don't bother to read their publications, couldn't care less about their press releases, and their public statements don't interest me at all. They're evil, that's that. They long ago burned it for me. To read anything they put out is to be lied to, or to be lost in the fine print, a total waste of time. I don't do business with them for the same reasons I don't watch Fux News, don't listen to Miley Cyrus, and don't run Windows Vista: because they suck like Electroluxes.

Unknown said...

I think this is inaccurate.

Going to the source post, as far as I can tell, the evidence for the complaints is:

(1) That the index counts providing mental health counselling to trans people as full credit for meeting trans peoples' health needs
(1a) ... without explicitly specifying that this coverage may not be restricted to "reparative" therapy
... but there is no evidence that any employer has ever attempted to get reparative-only therapy certified as counting toward CEI. There is a secondhand claim by an unnamed individual that her boss had verbally claimed that her company's coverage would cover reparative therapy (no evidence that her boss was representing company policy accurately). Even his statement didn't claim reparative therapy was the only therapy provided. Frankly, the only company I can imagine restricting coverage to reparative therapy is the sort of company that wears a zero CEI as a badge of pride.

In short, this seems like a really slender thread, essentially imaginary, to make a serious accusation on. It's a little like complaining that Amensty International does not list human sacrifice among the criteria they rate governments on. AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL SUPPORTS HUMAN SACRIFICE!

Now, (1) is a pretty lame criterion indeed for trans health needs, especially since the sort of company that's going for 100 CEI probably has mental health coverage anyway and only needs to refrain from explicitly excluding trans people. In other words, CEI's trans health points are freebies, no action required. That should be the cause of complaint.

Inaccuracy breeds mistrust.

Vanessa E. Foster said...

Your last comment said it all: inaccuracy breeds mistrust. I agree!

You state that "only company I can imagine restricting coverage to reparative therapy" is one earning "a zero CEI." I don't doubt that for companies "restricting coverage" to only reparative therapy. Nowhere in my post did you see that claim -- that they were restricting therapy. The claim is that this covers mental health care and counseling -- no restrictions or descriptions placed upon what might or might not be considered supportive therapy (as opposed to aversion or reparative therapy).

As for naming the individual (who spoke openly at a local therapist's trans clientele gathering of what she was encountering at work) in order to provide veracity for you, that would be great and I would do so in a heartbeat -- save for one problem. I don't know if she still works there at Hewlett Packard. If she does, and this gets out, how do you feel her self-described "kinda hostile" environment would be after? If she loses her job over it, what do you think her employment prospects would be with a prior job reference such as she might receive there? Do I think her not wanting to go public with this is cowardly? No, not really. In Houston, in fact anywhere in Texas, it's very pragmatic. Yeah, it sucks, but it beats being blackballed from your career and perpetually unemployed. I'm sorry that we philosophically disagree on this.

Indeed, Kelley's story was totally consistent with what I'd heard from the one anecdotal incident from HP -- which as mentioned was a 100% HRC CEI employer. Does this mean that HP encourages this as their policy? No. As I mentioned, there are companies that are great, but that can still have isolated locations within that can still defy their own policy philosophy. HP is a perfect example: supposedly a very good company to work for in their other offices (as I've heard), but here in Houston at the former Compaq campus, in certain facilities there, have had a history of local folks who've given them a very conservative-friendly and vocally (if not actually) judgmental and quite unsupportive environ. And indeed, with the one person I know of, the attitude of "curing" their transgender situation on the company dollar was real. Even before their policy expansion to cover gender identity, in the Compaq days there were numerous instances of the same commentary, belittling, discussion of "fixing" them of their "thoughts" of wanting to be another gender, and with a couple friends, termination. One of their former employees who was in our local support group, eventually ended up in Austin and homeless. No doubt they gave her a glowing reference.

Again, this isn't something that is simple to ferret out as corporations may enact policy, but have no declarations of what "mental health" coverage entails (leaving it open to interpretation, get it?). Nor does it mean that these all these companies have policies that are uniformly followed by all locales and management (we're dealing with humans and their intrinsic biases).

HRC does not specify what does and does not fall into counseling that would be considered supportive (I'm not sure that they want reparative therapy to be covered, I doubt it, but that's not elaborated). We can presume they would not support it, being a GLBT civil rights group -- but then close our eyes to any that provide "counseling" even though it may be of a reparative/behavior-repression variety. Should we continue to close our eyes? Maybe you would say yes, but I will say no. It's harmful.

Why reward employers who exploit this loophole? And why not point out the harmful gap in their criteria to an organization that purports to look out for the best interests of GLB and T? I refuse to hide my head in the sand.

MeghanS said...


This is one of the most over the top, and misleading posts that I have read. I have great respect for you. But to even write something as lame as this, suggesting that even the slimmest of thread that HRC would EVER support reparitive therapy is wrong.

If there is an in-network reparative therapy couselor in one of these plans, then I suppose a misguided transperson, or a dumb company official could have those visits covered. But come on, in this day do you really think that a transperson would go along with that as a company suggestion? Me thinks not, me also thinks they would (and should ) be screaming load about the mere "official" suggestion. HRC doesn't have the ability to track the directory of providers for every company.

When HRC has the ability to track supportive vs. non-supportive policies they do. For example, criteria specifically states "Gender identity diversity training offered OR supportive gender transition guidelines in place* - pg. 9 CEI 2009. HRC requires companies to provide a copy of transition guidelines and HRC workplace staff reviews them for bad language. If there is a problem we reach back out to the company to try to get it rectified. Equally, if a transperson sees that a stated supportive policy is not being followed through with, they have the ability to contact the workplace project for follow up.

Further, an explanation of HRC evaluation of trans health insurance is on pg 16-17 and CEI 2009. Pasted below.


This year, in order to verify the information submitted for this criterion, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation asked survey participants to submit documentation to support that various medically necessary treatments would be covered by the insurance plan. Such documentation included:

■ a complete list of exclusions (typically found only in the plan contract itself) that
does not indicate a transgender exclusion;

■ clinical guidelines and/or contract language indicating that treatment would be
considered medically necessary (usually under circumstances resembling current
or previous versions of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health); or

■ other plan documents or employee communications indicating medically necessary
treatments would be covered.

While the Human Rights Campaign Foundation cannot attest that insurance coverage would ultimately
be applied equally from business to business or even between multiple insurance plans used by the same business, our review suggests that a number of businesses have taken significant and substantial steps to remove discrimination from at least one of their health insurance plans for employees and their dependents.

16 % 49 businesses had insurance plans that indicated that most medically necessary
treatments would be covered. These businesses are highlighted in
Appendices B & C with a “+” under column 2c. CORPORATE EQUALITY INDEX 2009
Some of the first businesses to implement inclusive coverage placed a maximum financial amount
of insurance coverage available to transgender-specific treatment over an individual’s lifetime. Of
the 49 businesses that indicated most medically necessary treatments would be covered, only six reported a maximum financial cap, ranging from $10,000 to $75,000, with most reporting more than $50,000. Similar to the city and county of San Francisco, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation
anticipates that businesses will eventually increase or eliminate these caps entirely.
The vast majority of employers that obtain credit for criterion 2c have done so through short-term
leave coverage — which generally does not fall under health insurance and its exclusions — or mental health counseling — which can also fall outside of the health insurance plan or, if covered by the health insurance plan, can fall outside the scope of more limited transgender exclusions.

Where the Human Rights Campaign Foundation has seen detailed documentation of coverage,
it has generally been limited to specific procedures or treatments; such limitations could eventually
be viewed as insufficient. Because there has not been a plan that clearly outlines coverage for
the variety of possible treatments that could increase the likelihood of a successful transition and
such plans are relatively new to insurers and employers, a top research goal of the Human Rights
Campaign Foundation is to issue a more detailed report of the types of coverage generally available
at these employers, as well as identified best and worst practices of such plans.
Although not all transgender people have the same medical needs, standards of medical care for transgender people are maintained by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, which can be found online at

Vanessa E. Foster said...

Meghan, where did I state they "encourage" that? I said nothing of the kind! It's more about lack of awareness of their policy gap that created this. And I wonder if it's the same policy for gay and lesbian employees and what would happen should they receive similar comments from employers once they come out as gay/lesbian? Different situations as counseling is not a compulsory issue regarding their coming out, but what if someone should need counseling for, say, depression. Is there anything in place in the CEI criteria stating counseling should be affirming of the individual's identity, or that it should not include reparative therapy for GLBT affirmed employees? Or is it just open and left to the employer's determination of what would be right (esp. troublesome in religiopolitical America).

I never wrote about this before as I had no way of knowing HRC would even be aware of it ... until Kelley's report. She did bring up the issue last summer. Is this part of what is to change? If so, can you elaborate specifically on how that will change?

And if it risks a trans persons' employment in these tenuous times, do you really think everyone will speak out on this? You may well be secure in your job and unconcerned about such career repercussions, but do not superimpose that on the the Trans community as a whole.

Again, I would doubt this behavior ever makes it to HP corporate (though I could be wrong), but what happens here at this isolated location likely happens at other companies in other isolated locations as well. You may not be aware of it and HP may not be aware of it, but it doesn't mean it doesn't exist. When you factor in trans folks who have few if any options at any employment (and I'm *very* familiar with that!) and presume everyone is going to automatically make this a public case and risk both current job and any potential future employment when there is zero safety net and real potential to lose home and everything they've worked for to date, not to mention rarely having opp. for affordable or pro bono legal representation, you're vastly oversimplifying what is anything but a simple fix. Maybe it's that easy for those in gay and lesbian America -- I don't know, tend to doubt it and don't really see how. But with us, no -- decisions like this do not come easy and need to be very carefully considered before simply proceeding with this "to make a point". That much I do know for fact!

And what about dependent care for children who don't wish to be "counseled into accepting" their birth gender? The employees may not be trans themselves, and may be more brave about standing up and taking this on with fewer future career ramifications. But what happens if the employer decides counseling, esp. for non-adults (which is still quite controversial in many areas of the nation's unenlightened areas), must be of the reparative variety as 'children aren't mature enough to make up their own minds'? Are these the types of workplaces who, regardless of sensitivity training in the workplace, still be rewarded for reparative therapy of trans youth -- or is this to be addressed in specific in any upcoming changes to the CEI?

You're attempt blame those who point out the problem or to deny altogether its very existence does nothing to solve the problem. It merely attempts to hide and silence the problem while plastering over the symptoms as they pop up. Without addressing it, the problem remains. I don't care what HRC wants you to do to fight this back. We in the Trans community have ample history with G&L America showing there's absolutely nothing to gain by being silent, civil or decorous. Quite the contrary! The gay community said it best: Silence Equals Death! I concur.