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Trans CTA Worker Will Be Able To Get Surgery To Transition After CTA Changes Insurance Policy

"In a company of 11,000 people, I was able to help change this policy for the better — and that feels really good,” said the bus driver.

Russia Brown, a CTA bus driver who is a trans man, will be able to receive top surgery for transitioning after the CTA changed its insurance policy.
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CHICAGO — A bus driver who is a trans man will be able to get surgery for transitioning after the Chicago Transit Authority changed its insurance policy to cover him.

Russia Brown, 28, began transitioning in July 2016, according to the ACLU of Illinois. Brown eventually decided to get top surgery and received letters from his primary care doctor and psychiatrist recommending the surgery.

Transitioning comes when trans people use different methods, including hormones and surgery, to “bring their bodies into alignment with their gender identity,” according to GLAAD. One of those methods is top surgery, when breast tissue is removed.

“This surgery is often recommended by health professionals who treat those who are transgender, allowing the patient’s body to better correspond to the gender they know themselves to be,” according to the ACLU.

Brown found an in-network surgeon to perform the procedure, but in December 2017 the CTA denied coverage of the surgery, saying the agency only covered it for people with cancer.

Brown, a Park Manor resident who grew up in Bronzeville, worked with the ACLU of Illinois to contact the CTA, which then changed its insurance policy so it could approve Brown’s surgery — and surgeries for other trans people.

“I just want to be the person I am. I work hard and I pay for my insurance out of my paycheck every two weeks like other employees,” Brown said in a statement. “When I first got denied, it made me feel forgotten and that my employer didn’t really care about transgender people. I am glad the CTA stepped up and did the right thing. In a company of 11,000 people, I was able to help change this policy for the better — and that feels really good.”

A CTA spokeswoman said the agency “fosters a diverse, inclusive workplace for all employees.”

“When this matter came to our attention, CTA reviewed its existing guidelines related to health care coverage for gender reassignment surgery, and determined such coverage should be extended in cases that are supported by proper medical documentation,” the spokeswoman said. “That decision was made in keeping with our broader efforts toward inclusion and diversity.”