Chaz Bono Gives Voice To An Often 'Invisible' Community

Should Health Insurance Pay for Transition Treatment?

According to Davis, coverage of transition treatments goes beyond a money issue. Often, transgender people need written letters from doctors showing some sort of transition treatment or proof of full-blown surgical procedures in order to get the sex on driver's licenses and other legal documents changed.

"I do think that it's important to note that the decision to transition is very personal; for instance, not everyone takes hormones," said Davis. "What's really important to remember is that no matter which hormone you're on or what measures you take to transition, that it's impossible to do that privately."

Estimating the Number of Transgender People

Most researchers agree that it is hard to count numbers of transgender people. Many do not want to be identified and the definition of "transgender" can be problematic for some.

But at least one European study showed that the amount of people openly identifying themselves as transgender is on the rise.

"What we're seeing is more countries where this is beginning to be a significant issue among the population," said Stephen Whittle, professor of equalities law at Manchester Metropolitan University in the U.K. and president of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health.

"People do not like the way they have to perform their gender in daily life," Whittle said. "They're not comfortable. They don't like the things they have to wear and the things they have to do."

Physicist and electronic engineer Stephenne Rhodes, owner of Rhodes Research, said a number of European studies are pointing to increased documentation of transgender people. In a study she will be presenting at the upcoming meeting of The World Professional Association for Transgender Health, Rhodes estimates that the documentation of the transgender population will double every four to five years.

Rhodes added that while accepted statistics -- such as those from the American Psychological Association -- show that the number of transsexual men and women are 1 in 10,000 people and 1 in 3,000 people, respectively, experts agree those numbers are probably lower than they should be.

In fact, Rhodes believes that the ratio of transgender men and women is closer to one-to-one.

As the number of out and vocal transgender people rises, this will start to be a legal issue as they demand more rights, and economically as they demand insurance cover treatments like hormone therapy and plastic or reconstructive surgeries.

For now, Chaz Bono's representative has not specified the transition treatments Bono will undergo.

"We ask that the media respect Chaz's privacy during this long process as he will not be doing any interviews at this time," Howard Bragman said in a Thursday statement to the press.

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