The ACLU of Colorado filed a complaint on Monday, February 11, alleging that a company discriminated against an employee by denying him insurance coverage for a medically necessary treatment for gender dysphoria.
The complaint, submitted to the Colorado Civil Rights Division, argues that staffing company InnoSource discriminated against former employee Dashir Moore at its Colorado Springs office by refusing to cover Moore's gender reassignment surgery and other treatments for gender dysphoria.
“Exclusions for treatment for gender transition and gender dysphoria are illegal," says Sara Neel, the ACLU of Colorado attorney who filed the complaint. "Many circuit courts have recognized that discrimination against transgender individuals is a form of sex discrimination, which is prohibited by state and federal anti-discrimination laws."
Gender dysphoria is "the medical term for incongruence between a person’s gender identity and their sex assigned at birth where such incongruence results in clinically significant distress," according to ACLU of Colorado.
Moore, 32, moved from Atlanta to Colorado in October 2017 specifically to eventually receive treatment for gender dysphoria. He has identified as male since 2010.
Moore landed a job at InnoSource — which did not respond to an email seeking comment for this story — in February 2018. The company's insurance plan kicked in for Moore in April 2018, and at the beginning of May, Moore reached out to the company's insurance coordinator to verify that the plan covered a mastectomy for gender dysphoria (InnoSource offers its own insurance plans versus outsourcing them). Moore says he was told the plan would cover 70 percent, while he would have to pick up the rest.
On May 21, surgeons at Denver Health operated on Moore. But Moore's joy at finally getting the long-awaited surgery vanished when he received a call two days later from the transgender care navigator at Denver Health. The coordinator told Moore that his insurance denied coverage of not only the surgery, but also any other treatment related to gender dysphoria.
"I cried. It was just devastating," says Moore, who suddenly owed $30,000 in medical bills. Moore appealed the decision to deny his claim, but received a denial letter in August 2018 and resigned from InnoSource a day later.
"Growing up in the South and being transgender and black, I felt like Colorado would be a better fit for me.
That was the main reason why I left everything I loved in Atlanta. But that joyous moment that I was supposed to have to finally be my authentic self was completely erased," says Moore.
Neel has seen this type of alleged discrimination before. But in those past instances, Neel has reached out to the companies privately, which has always resulted in an insurance policy change so that gender dysphoria treatment is covered. This time is different, Neel says, in large part because of Moore's willingness to put himself out there.
"Dashir was willing to do it. It takes a lot of bravery for someone to go forward, for someone who is transgender to put himself out there," says Neel.
Asked why he's willing to go public, Moore responds, "I don’t want this to happen to anyone else. It’s not my personal fight. It’s about overall change."
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.