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PASSAGES Naya Taylor

Windy City Times received word from Lambda Legal that Naya Taylor passed away June 20 unexpectedly passed away after complications from a heart attack. Lambda Legal was representing Taylor, a transgender woman, in an unrelated federal discrimination lawsuit because she had been denied medical care that is routinely provided to non-transgender patients.

The WCT profile below is one of the last interviews she gave. Lambda Legal's statement is below.

Naya Taylor on love, health care and acceptance

By Jen Stanley

Read more story below....

Naya Taylor, the transgender woman who filed a discrimination suit last month against her primary care physician, has lived in the small town of Mattoon, Illinois, for about 28 years. For the past 20 of them, she's been fostering disabled and special needs dogs.

"I only take the ones that no one else will take the time to love and care for," Taylor said. "Many people don't care for those who are different."

Taylor, now 45, first remembers talking about her gender identity at the age of 4, but she says she's always known she was a girl.

"I never saw myself as a little boy," Taylor said. "I started wearing makeup at 14. I was just me. I just lived it."

Still, she hasn't always felt accepted. Her parents were pentecostal preachers and rejected her early assertions of femininity.

"My mom asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I said, 'I want to be a mommy and a wife,'" Taylor said. "I mean, that didn't go over well because I was raised in that area and time of, you know, WHAP."

While for some, the pain from years of discrimination and inequality ferments into anger, for Taylor, it germinated and grew into compassion and strength. The spirit that drove her to foster special needs dogs also drove her to file the lawsuit against Dr. Aja Lystila in April.

The Affordable Care Act, or the ACA, is the first federal law to prohibit discrimination based on sex in the context of health care. These civil rights extend to transgender men and women, though many trans people still have trouble accessing medical treatment.

After Lystila denied Taylor hormone-replacement therapy, Taylor confronted the clinic in an attempt to advocate for herself. According to her lawsuit, the clinic responded by saying, "We don't need to treat people like you."

Some states have their own civil rights protections for transgender people—Illinois happens to be one of them—but before the ACA there were few options for trans patients who weren't fortunate enough to live in one of those states. Even since the ACA passed, transgender health care can be hard to come by for many Americans.

Taylor wants equal access to health care for all transgender men and women, and hopes this suit will help.

"One of the reasons we chose to bring it as a federal law suit instead of a private complaint is that we wanted to do some public education," Ken Upton, one of Taylor's lawyers at Lambda Legal, said. "We wanted it to be visible and get the argument to be out in the open."

Taylor has a new doctor now, Dr. Ranchero, a family practitioner in nearby Charleston who specializes in transgender health. Last week, she returned home from his office to discover that one of her dogs had attacked and killed another.

"The dogs fight sometimes, but they don't go after each other with the intent to kill," Taylor said. "I think he just grabbed him by the neck in a bad spot."

A few days earlier, another one of her dogs died from a frontal brain lesion. This dog, like all of Taylor's dogs, had been sick for a long time, so it wasn't a surprise.

Alhough it had been a difficult week, she said she was confident she'd get through it. Taylor has a lot of love in her life now. Her neighbors are supportive and friendly, and she's been happy in Mattoon.

"It's a little bitty country town," Taylor said. "You have your parks where people stay out and talk. You talk to your neighbors and you have a drink with people on the block. It's just a homey little town."

Her friend, Jason, and his 5-year-old son, Zachary, also live in Mattoon. Taylor has helped care for Zachary all his life and has acted as a mother to him.

"I don't think just blood makes you related," she said. "I love him and consider him a son."

Taylor takes on the empowering mother role regarding the lawsuit as well. She's hoping that others will take her lead and assert their rights.

At home in Mattoon, she's beginning to forgive the dog who attacked the other. "He's been staying away from me because he knows I'm mad. But it will be ok. We're starting to come around to each other."

For now, she's taking the time to grieve the two who died last week.

"I've always wanted a weeping willow. I think I'll spend the long weekend planting one in the yard in their memories."

Lambda Legal Mourns the Loss of Transgender Client Naya Taylor

(Chicago June 26, 2014) — Late last Friday Lambda Legal received word that its client, Naya Taylor, unexpectedly passed away after complications from a heart attack. Lambda Legal was representing Ms. Taylor, a transgender woman, in an unrelated federal discrimination lawsuit because she had been denied medical care that is routinely provided to non-transgender patients.

"We are deeply saddened by Naya's death and send our sympathy to her family and friends," said Christopher Clark Counsel in Lambda Legal's Midwest Regional Office based in Chicago. "She was a passionate advocate for the transgender community and we are incredibly proud to have represented her in her fight to be respected as a transgender woman seeking routine medical care."

Naya Taylor contacted Lambda Legal after her doctor refused a request for hormone replacement therapy. Transgender people face staggering amounts of discrimination in health care settings on a daily basis, but Ms. Taylor recognized the unique challenges in accessing health care transgender people who live in rural areas face.

"To our knowledge, Naya's case was the country's first transgender discrimination case filed under the Affordable Care Act," said M. Dru Levasseur, Lambda Legal's Transgender Rights Project Director. "Naya was a proud transgender woman who spoke out to make sure no one is turned away from needed health care due to bias and discrimination. I am devastated to learn of her passing. We will honor Naya's life by continuing to fight health care discrimination against all transgender people."


Dr. Aja Lystila, based in Mattoon, IL, had been Ms. Taylor's primary care physician, but when Ms. Taylor requested to start hormone replacement therapy (HRT) as part of her medically necessary, transition-related healthcare to treat her gender dysphoria, Dr. Lystila refused. Dr. Lystila first claimed she was not experienced in providing hormones to transgender people even though hormone therapy is regularly provided to non-transgender patients in a variety of settings every day. Later the clinic told Ms. Taylor that it "does not have to treat people like you." HRT is one of the vital life-saving treatments used to treat gender dysphoria, a recognized, serious medical condition.

The Affordable Care Act is the first federal civil rights law to prohibit health care providers that receive federal funds, such as Dr. Lystila's medical practice, from discriminating against any individual on the basis of sex for purpose of providing health services. That prohibition extends to discrimination based on gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity, regardless of the actual or perceived gender identity of the individuals involved.

When Lambda Legal filed the case Naya Taylor said:

"When they said, 'we don't have to treat people like you,' I felt like the smallest, most insignificant person in the world. The doctor and office provide hormone replacement therapy for others at the same clinic, they just refused to do that for me."

For more information http:// www.lambdalegal.org/in-court/cases/taylor-v-lystila-0 .

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