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San Francisco Mulling Coverage For Sex-Change Procedure

September 26, 1996

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ The city that created a task force to consider legalizing prostitution and backed the use of medicinal marijuana is mulling another bold idea _ covering the cost of sex-change operations for city employees.

At the request of the city’s ``transgender community″ _ believed to number at least 6,000 people _ Supervisor Tom Ammiano plans to introduce a resolution to cover sex-change operations.

Larry Brinkin, the coordinator of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and HIV Discrimination Unit of the Human Rights Commission, concedes that getting the resolution passed will be tough.

``We’ll definitely have to give them a good understanding of what this is about,″ he said.

Arthur Bruzzone, the chairman of the San Francisco Republican Party, and others say such operations are a lifestyle choice and not medically necessary. They liken it to breast enhancement surgery.

``When we solve the problem of 6,000 homeless people on our streets and solve the affordable housing problem in San Francisco; after we’ve seismically upgraded every building in this city for the next great earthquake that’s coming _ then let’s look at these lifestyle decisions,″ Bruzzone said.

Supporters counter that for many people, gender transformation is a medical necessity.

``People don’t chose to be transsexual, they’re born that way,″ said San Francisco Police Sgt. Stephan Thorne, who is undergoing the change from female to male, at his own expense. ``It is what we are and it is a condition that we need treatment for.″

The potential cost is difficult to estimate because nobody knows how many of the city’s 28,000 employees wish to have the operation.

The surgery can cost between $10,000 and $20,000 on top of extensive costs for psychiatric evaluations and hormone treatments required both before and after the operation.

One supporter of the resolution is Kiki Whitlock, who worked three computer jobs at once to raise the $10,000 she needed to have her gender changed from male to female in Colorado in 1985.

``I think it’s important that people recognize we’re not trying to get a free ride,″ she said. ``We’re taxpayers, too, just like anybody else. I’m able to be productive to society now. I’m happy. I’m complete. Whereas before the surgery, I was suicidal.″

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