Trans-Identifying Firefighter Suing Philadelphia Over Facial Feminization Surgery Coverage

The firefighter claims the surgery is "medically necessary."
Firefighters walking to the fire truck after responding an emergency call
(Getty Images)

A trans-identifying firefighter is suing the city of Philadelphia for allegedly refusing insurance coverage for his facial feminization surgery.

The firefighter, a 55-year-old man who has been with the Philadelphia fire department for 28 years, claims that the city, as well as his union, Firefighters & Paramedics Local 22, and Independence Blue Cross insurance all discriminated against him on the basis of his gender identity.

He filed his lawsuit anonymously as Jane Doe in federal court on January 31.

The veteran firefighter, who holds the supervisory position of fire battalion chief, claims the facial feminization surgery he wants is “medically necessary and not cosmetic” because of his gender dysphoria “disability.”

The lawsuit argues that denying him coverage of the procedure, which includes a laundry list of procedures including a rhinoplasty, a forehead reduction, and a hair transplant, is causing the firefighter harm and amounts to “illegal sex stereotyping.”

“Ms. Doe was forced to maintain natal sex characteristics with which she no longer identified by virtue of the Defendants’ callous and discriminatory acts committed against her,” the complaint states, adding that, “Ms. Doe has spent years of her life presenting herself in a manner that is not her authentic self.”

The suit also claims the firefighter, who began identifying as transgender at some point during his firefighting career, now “cannot function in society or work” without the facial feminization procedures and is “constantly misgendered.”

“She became suicidal and considered ending her life,” the suit says.

The lawsuit says the defendants decided the firefighter was simply trying to “improve her appearance,” a conclusion that added “insult to injury” and relied on “stereotyped notions of what a traditional female face looks like.”

The defendants also consistently “misgendered” the firefighter and did not call him his “preferred name,” the suit says.


As a result, the firefighter has suffered “economic harms, emotional distress, mental anguish, pain and suffering, humiliation and embarrassment,” and “loss of enjoyment of life and life’s pleasures,” the lawsuit claims.

The firefighter is seeking coverage for the procedures, as well as compensatory and punitive damages.

The suit also demands that the defendants hold “LGBT sensitivity trainings” for employees, that the insurance agency use the “preferred name” of a trans-identifying person in the claims process, and that Philadelphia adopt a written policy to support employees who complain about gender identity discrimination.

Independence Blue Cross said in a statement that they cannot comment on pending litigation, but that they “serve all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

“Equitable care and protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identification are written into our medical policies and required by law. Our recently updated policies for gender affirming care also take into consideration the standards published by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH),” the insurance agency said.

Philadelphia’s Law Department told Philadelphia Gay News that, “given that this case is in active litigation, the City declines to comment.”

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