That’s not exactly what Secretary of State John Kerry said, but neither is it as ridiculous as what he actually did say.
He was quoted in an Washington Post article reporting that the State Department, “which has been on the leading edge of policies affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender federal employees,” has decided finally—we shared your impatience—to eliminate the “transgender exclusion” from the department’s largest health-insurance plan. What the Washington Post piece says is that although policies generally exclude services “related to sex reassignment,” in fact, “Insurance companies often view this exclusion in the broadest possible terms, excluding care that clearly has no relationship to gender status such as cancer treatment and routine preventive care.”
It’s impossible to know that without investigating insurance companies’ practices, but somehow it seems unlikely. It might be that once a person gets hired by the State Department he or (… hmm) should have the same coverage as others have, with restrictions no more onerous. So, for example, if an employee regularly engaged in dangerous limb-threatening sports—bull riding, street luging, or mixed martial arts—it might be appropriate for his health-insurance company to refuse to insure him or at least to demand a higher premium. After all, life-insurance companies regularly charge higher premiums to smokers.
Which, if you think about it, may not be fair after all: people are, irremediably, the products of their environment, so if someone’s parents smoked or ate too much, he is likely to do the same—and so we can’t blame him, can we? Who in his right mind would suggest today that obese people should pay more for health insurance even though they may cost the insurers more? And isn’t it the same, mutatis mutandis, with gender identification? Aren’t we all in this together?
Let’s Run Some Numbers
Anyway, an exclusion for sex-change operations really seems odd—hardly worth the paperwork. No doubt such procedures can be expensive—see below—but how many State Department employees would you expect to change their gender in any given year? But of course that’s not the right question, which is, rather, how many State Department transgender people would you expect to have that operation in a given year?
(Not so long ago, people who had had sex-change operations were denoted “transsexual,” and the newer term “transgender” referred to dressing and behaving like the “target gender,” with perhaps a bit of hormone therapy. No longer. Now, as one “transgender rights activist” explains, any definition “that pit[s] biology against psychology or the body against the mind … denigrates transgender peoples [sic] self-identified genders.”)
To figure out how many transgender operations there might be each year, we first have to estimate how many transgender people there are at State. Who knows? The State Department website says there are 13,000 people in the Foreign Service corps, 11,000 in the Civil Service, and more than 45,000 “locally employed Foreign Service staff overseas,” for a total of 69,000.
But, how many of those 69,000 are trans? Again, who knows? A 2003 survey taken in California found that 0.1 percent of adults there identified as “transgender,” which would put the number of transgenders at State at 69. We’re getting closer. How many of those 69 would you, or the insurance company, expect to have the operation each year? And how much would it cost?
For computing the cost, we’re in luck. The Philadelphia Center for Transgender Surgery has an online price list. Picking from the “Male to Female” list, we see that an abdominoplasty (tummy tuck) is $8,500, although a mini is only $5,300. A buttock augmentation (implants) goes for $9,500. And an unmentionable procedure—the queen of the lot—is really expensive: $19,750. If you do everything on the list (and you probably wouldn’t), the cost would be $120,700.
If ten people opted for surgery in any given year, the total bill would be $1,207,000—but that would be spread out among the premiums of the 69,000 employees, which comes to only $17.50 a person. That is not a big deal. At least not a big financial deal.
John Kerry Plays the Race and Sex Cards Because He Has Nothing Else
So why all the fuss? What’s really going on here?
Listen to Kerry, as quoted in the same Washington Post piece: “I’ve met transgendered [sic] colleagues at the Department and in addition to being brave and strong, they’re just good officers.” Really? How many brave transgender officers are there at State, anyway? And just where has Kerry met them? Not, presumably, in the private elevator to his eighth-floor office, and probably not in the ground-floor cafeteria.
We note first that he’s talking about “officers,” so that must exclude non-officers. The State Department doesn’t have ready figures (or won’t release them) on how many of its 69,000 employees are officers, but presumably not all of them are. If a third are, that would mean there are 23,000 officers. But Secretary Kerry cited those who were “brave,” which further reduces the number, because not all officers would serve in positions that offer the opportunity to be brave. In fact, probably no more than 10 percent of the 23,000 officers, or 2,300, could be described as “brave.”
And of those 2,300, how many are transgender (not “transgendered,” please, as Kerry calls them)? Well, 0.1 percent, or 2.3 people. And Kerry hasn’t just met them. He knows all 2.3 of them well enough to have formed an opinion of them, that they are brave and strong, and good officers.
What we are seeing, of course, is a frantic Democratic Party. The Obama administration is in disarray, its policies—to the extent it has formed them—failing, its popularity plummeting, its corporate-funding buddies switching sides. Frantically, frenetically, the Obama people play the gender card, or cards, and the race card.
It was that old card, racist Democrat Hugo Black—under attack, when he was nominated to the Supreme Court, for having been a Ku Klux Klansman—who made “Some of my best friends are Jews” famous. Shelley Berman, a 1950s stand-up comedian, had a better line. “So-and-so,” he would intone confidently, “isn’t a Jew. He’s just Jewish.” Berman could get away with it.
Kerry should have stuck with Hugo Black’s line. At least it’s probably true. And we can say about John Kerry, though perhaps without Shelley Berman’s confidence, that the secretary’s not a fool. He’s just foolish.