Thursday, 27 March 2014

Intersex Discrimination Hearing Results And My Ambiguous Feelings On The Netherlands

On Monday the 24th I travelled to my current home city of Karlsruhe, Germany to Utrecht in the Netherlands. There I met up with a friend of a friend at whose place I would be spending the night. The next morning I made my way to the office of the College voor de Rechten van de Mens (Human Rights Institute) for the hearing which took place there against my former health insurance company Univé. Representatives of the general health insurance organization CVZ and from the Ministry of VWS (Health, etc.) were present as well.

During the hearing which took well over an hour the facts as they had been gathered in the letter exchange of the past months (detailed on this blog as well) were put together. In essence it came down to that the Ministry hadn't done anything untoward as the legal article they had written was neutral and implicitly inclusive. The interpretation of this article by CVZ was addressed, however, as the interpretation they had provided of said article had been unclear and focused on transsexuals. The question to CVZ by the College thus was how they defined 'intersex' and whether this falls into their interpretation of this law article.

CVZ seemed to be quite ignorant of what intersex exactly was, quoting a statement by one of their medical advisors that only three types of intersex were defined before (hermaphroditism, semi-hermaphroditism, gonadal), something which is patently false. They then went on to reference DSD as the new and current term, which would be better because it is more inclusive. While I vehemently disagreed with this statement, I did not interject or otherwise object against these statements as it did not directly affect my case. CVZ ultimately did agree that there are a lot of conditions which would also fall within the reference frame when applying this law to individuals. The conclusion here was that with me being intersex, I should have received full coverage.

Finally Univé was left to make a statement on how it wished to proceed from this point. Here a clear tactical retreat was made, with the Univé representative stating that they might be willing to retroactively cover all of the costs I have made while undergoing the hair-removal therapy over the past years (over 6,000 Euro still uncovered), if they could verify via an independent Dutch physician that I am in fact intersex. The College asked Univé to clarify what kind of medical information they would further need to prove that I am intersex, quoting a section from a report from the surgeon from Hamburg in which he stated that I have an intersex body in his professional opinion. Univé responded that they did not know this information and would ask their medical advisor.

Then the College asked me to comment on this proposal. I objected against the demand that it would have to be a Dutch physician, explaining the complete disagreement between Dutch and German physicians on my physical state. I suggested that the reports by the now four German medical teams would qualify as 'independent' since they have no connection or relation to me, Univé, the Dutch medical system or anything else which might make them not impartial. Finally I mentioned my visit to a German reconstructive surgeon next month who will reconstruct my female side. In my view this already fully proved that I am in fact intersex.

A brief recess was called. Outside the hearing room the representatives and I talked about the case, finding that we pretty much agreed on everything I had said and finding no points of disagreement. On the contrary, we all agreed that it was a very weird case, especially with the unusual reports from the Dutch physicians who completely counter-indicated everything the German physicians said, despite the surgery done in Germany in 2011 decidedly refuting the Dutch reports. As the recess ended we went back into the room.

The College asked me whether I would be willing to take Univé up on this offer upon which I repeated my objections. Univé responded to this by saying that they would talk with their medical advisor again and would let both me and the College know in about two weeks time what information they would require from me. This I found to be acceptable, changing the case into the mediation situation whereby Univé and I will try to settle our differences. I argued to the College that if Univé covers the costs I have made it would be sufficient for me as this is what I initially set out to accomplish.

With this the hearing ended. It'll take about two weeks now before I know whether I can settle matters with Univé or that it has to go back to the College for judgement. All depends on what Univé thinks they require to prove to themselves that I am intersex. Apparently the Dutch judge's ruling in 2012 that I am in fact intersex and a stack of reports from four German medical teams doesn't suffice. If they keep up their claim of only accepting a Dutch physician's report, then I fear that it will have to go back to the College for a ruling. Dutch physicians at this point have proven themselves to be completely and utterly unreliable if not untrustworthy when it comes to handling intersex cases.

My way back to Germany after the hearing was uneventful. Walking back to the train station in Utrecht I observed everything around me, but didn't really detect any sense of longing or loathing. My feelings towards the Netherlands in general are more of an uncomfortable sadness. While I loathe the Dutch medical system with all my might due to what they have inflicted upon me, I do not dislike or hate the country in general. Having spent a few months living in Germany I also got impressed by just how small the Netherlands is, in a physical sense. It makes me question the relevance of spending much time on achieving justice in such a small country.

Crossing the border back into the Germany I mostly felt relief. The Netherlands hadn't felt welcoming or pleasant to me. While I recognize much of the sights and of course speak the language fluently, it would be amiss to claim that I in any way feel a connection with the country. It's just another country, albeit one which has done me considerable harm. I just don't know what to think, really. In fact, the next day I noticed that I felt much better about living in Germany and Karlsruhe now. Everything just feels more relaxed and pleasant here and I even get proper medical care. The Netherlands feels like strife to me, whereas Germany - though not a vacation - actually offers me possibilities. In a way I actually feel more human in Germany.

Here is to a quick resolution to the Univé case. Two years is a long time to fight over something so silly.


No comments: