Senior Staff Attorney Jennifer Levi (left), a member of the GLAD team representing Rhiannon, talked with us about the importance of the case.
What is this case about?
Why did the IRS deny her deduction?
So you think that the IRS’s decision shows an underlying bias against trans people?
Why should Rhiannon have been able to deduct the surgery as a medical expense?
There’s just no real question that for some people whose gender identity doesn’t match their sex, that experience causes very serious anxiety, distress, sadness, and depression. And people should have access to medical care.
Why is this case important?
What we’ve found in the context of this case is that most people really do see through what the IRS has said. People understand that if you wake up every day and you look in the mirror and the person that you see is not the person you feel like you are, that’s an uncomfortable experience at best, and disorienting and disabling at worst. Fair-minded people understand that individuals should be able to take steps to change that experience and integrate their lives more fully in order to be who they are--in order to wake up every day and see the person in the mirror that they feel themselves to be. And that when somebody does that, they shouldn’t be fired from their jobs, they shouldn’t be beaten up on the streets, they shouldn’t be denied equal treatment that other Americans receive under something as basic as the tax code.
Rhiannon’s experience is one piece of the experience of transgender people. Not everybody has the same interest in transitioning medically. Not everyone can afford to, and not everyone would want to. But this is an important case for the entire community. And that’s because what’s really at the heart of this case is a central misunderstanding about the importance of being able to express one’s gender identity. Everybody should be able to do that.