April 7, 2022

SACRAMENTO – Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco)’s Senate Bill 923 passed the Senate Health Committee on Wednesday afternoon with a 8 -2 vote. SB 923, the Gender Affirming Care Act, would set California apart from states throughout the country, where that has been a wave of anti-transgender measures. The Gender Affirming Care Act would address the dire need for affirming care and place California at the cutting edge of inclusive health care policies for TGI people.  

The bill employs multiple strategies to improve access to affirming care for transgender, gender nonconforming, and intersex (TGI) Californians. Specifically, SB 923 would:

  • Require continuing medical education to incorporate evidence-based TGI cultural competency training.
  • Require evidence-based TGI cultural competency training for health plan staff who directly work with enrollees.
  • Track and monitor complaints and publicly post findings in health regulators’ annual reports or website.
  • Require health plans to make available through their call center and webpage, a list of all in-network providers who offer gender-affirming services.
  • Lastly, the Health & Human Services Agency will convene a working group comprised of various representatives to develop quality standards with input from at least 3 TGI-serving organizations who will recommend training curriculum.

SB 923 builds on the Transgender Wellness and Equity Fund, administered by the Office of Health Equity within the State Department of Public Health, for the purpose of grant funding focused on coordinating trans-inclusive health care for individuals who identify as TGI.

Many TGI Californians encounter discrimination and difficulty accessing the health care they need. TGI Californians report discrimination including being refused treatment, verbally harassed, physically or sexually assaulted, or having to teach the provider about transgender people in order to receive appropriate care.

In a testimony provided by mental health professional Erin Pollard, M.A., LMFT, LPCC she stated, “My clients regularly bring me stories of their denial of treatment, harassment, and misinformation by medical and mental health clinicians. My TGI clients are often left reasonably fearful and avoidant of engagement with the medical community. We must establish better access to gender affirming trainings for clinicians and the ability for consumers to find and access the care they need.”

The Williams Institute estimates that in the state of California, at least 218,400 individuals identify as transgender. Despite making up a significant portion of the State’s population, TGI people often do not receive the health care they need. SB 923 would require an individual to complete a refresher course if a complaint has been filed, and a decision has been made in favor of the complainant, against that individual for not providing trans-inclusive health care, or on a more frequent basis if deemed necessary.

“Proper gender-affirming care can alleviate a patient’s mental and emotional distress and lead to significant improvements in the overall well-being of the TGI community. We are grateful that TGI people will be able to receive the health care they deserve as human beings.”  stated Dannie Ceseña, the Transgender Health Equity Manager for the California LGBTQ Health and Human Services Network.

SB 923 is another step towards achieving health equity for TGI people. Previously, Senator Wiener authored SB 225, known as the Bodily Autonomy, Dignity and Choice Act, last January with the hope of moving it out of the Legislature this session. Unfortunately, the legislation was not able to gain enough support to pass out of the Senate’s Committee on Business, Professions, and Economic Development, and was pulled from the hearing in early January, 2022. Evidently, there is still much advocacy and cultural humility training needed to ensure providers are able to properly care for TGI patients.

SB 923 is co-sponsored by Break The Binary LLC, California LGBTQ Health and Human Services Network, California TRANScends, Equality California, Gender Justice LA, National Health Law Program, Orange County TransLatinas, Queer Works, Rainbow Pride Youth Alliance, San Francisco Office of Transgender Initiatives, The TransPower Project, TransCanWork, Trans Community Project, Trans Family Support Services, Transgender Health and Wellness Center, Tranz of Anarchii INC, Unique Woman’s Coalition (UWC), Unity Hope, and Western Center on Law & Poverty.