My name is Mika, my pronouns are she, her, and hers. I live with an ultra-rare disease called cystinosis that is slowly destroying my organs.
I am a transgender woman and coming out as transgender a decade ago was the most difficult and terrifying thing I have done. It was more frightening than learning about my ultra-rare disease which will eventually take my life.
Being a transgender woman has meant a lifetime of bullying, harassment, and discrimination. It has led to broken friendships and relationships with my biological family.
In 2011 when my kidneys failed due to my cystinosis and I needed a kidney transplant. I went to the Nebraska Medical Center/UNMC (now known as Nebraska Medicine) to be listed for a kidney transplant and to begin hemodialysis. However, because of my transgender status, I was repeatedly denied a kidney transplant even though I had a living donor. The transplant team also continually misgendered me and used my deadname.*
After three years of dialysis, I moved to Iowa and received a living donor kidney transplant at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.
A couple of years ago, my gender dysphoria had become exacerbated, which led to harmful, destructive, and suicidal behaviors. Frequently, I did not have the strength to fight the daily battles to have my identity validated and recognized. I was exhausted and hopeless.
In January and February of 2017, I could not continue fighting the combined battles of living with an ultra-rare disease, being transgender, living in poverty, and living in a capitalist society. I could not see a future where I did not fight daily battles, a future where I could be happy and normal. These daily struggles broke me. I attempted to cope by taking my own life. I wanted – no I needed – to rest.
It is because of living with cystinosis and being a transgender woman that I support Bernie Sanders for President and his Medicare for All plan.
Bernie Sanders believes that every American deserves health care as a fundamental human right, not a privilege. Bernie is fighting for Medicare for All that would provide every person health care without discrimination and without any insurance premiums, deductibles, or copays.
Under the Medicare for All system, all medically necessary care including dental, vision, reproductive, and mental health conditions would be covered. All medically necessary surgery including gender-affirming surgery would be covered.
I also support Bernie because the medication that I take to slow the progression of my disease, Procysbi, costs over $80,000 for a month.
Bernie will stop the pharmaceutical industry from ripping off the American people, by making sure no one in America pays over $200 a year for the medicine we need by capping what Americans pay for prescription drugs.
Bernie will also end the pharmaceutical companies’ greed by cutting what the government pays for prescription drugs by 50%, ensuring that the U.S. doesn’t pay more for these medications than other major countries. He will require Medicare to negotiate lower prices while maintaining access to all FDA-approved medications and allow patients, pharmacists, and wholesalers to purchase low-cost drugs from Canada and other countries.
As a transgender woman, I know that Bernie is the strongest candidate for LGBTQIA+ equality. He continues to be the most outspoken opponent of oppression of all kinds including against the LGBTQIA+ community. He did this when he was Mayor of Burlington, Vermont where he passed one of the first nondiscrimination ordinances in the country to protect the rights of LGBTQIA+ people. He fought against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and “Defense of Marriage Act” when he was a Representative in the U.S. House.
Bernie has always been on our side, not just when it was politically convenient for him.
Bernie will fight with us to pass the Equality Act, the Every Child Deserves a Family Act, the Safe Schools Improvement Act, and the Student Non-Discrimination Act.
He will fight to protect transgender and nonbinary people’s right to quality health care without discrimination. He will ensure that transgender and nonbinary people have access to medically necessary gender-affirming surgery and hormone replacement therapies. He will ensure that his Medicare for All system covers all medically necessary health care including abortion services and all forms of transgender and nonbinary health care services.
Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All would not only confront the massive health disparities faced by the LGBTQ+ community, but it would also cover gender-affirming surgeries, increase access to PrEP, remove barriers to health care and bolster suicide prevention efforts. Bernie’s plan clearly states that LGBTQ+ people cannot be discriminated against by providers or denied health benefits. It’s a truly intersectional plan that would establish health care as a right to every single person in America, no matter who you are. – Roger Ouellete, Bernie 2020 Iowa Communications Director