I gave a brief talk at GLAD’s Transgender Rights Project reception Wednesday evening (22 October). The following is the text of my talk…………………
My name is Rhiannon O’Donnabhain. I’m glad to see everyone here today and happy to have a chance to say a few words about GLAD. I’m especially excited about the Transgender Rights Project, because with GLAD’s help, I am doing something I’m sure we’ve all wanted to do at one time or another—sue the Internal Revenue Service.
Like many of you in this room, I struggled for years with my gender identity, and finally found the courage to express myself in a way that felt comfortable for me. I started a course of treatment that included therapy, hormone treatments, and surgeries. I had GRS in October of 2001 – and when I filed my taxes in April 2002, I claimed the cost of that surgery and other related procedures as deductible medical expenses.
But the IRS refused to treat my medical expenses as legitimate and deductible. They denied my deductions – I believe for no other reason than misunderstanding and bias.
I called GLAD’s Legal InfoLine for help. They decided to pursue my case and filed suit in federal tax court. I’m represented by three wonderful GLAD attorneys, and a team from the law firm Sullivan and Worcester. And, speaking of the InfoLine, I have now been a volunteer on the InfoLine for the past two years – it’s a tremendously rewarding experience!
The day before my case went to trial in July 2007, I ironed a top and made sure there wasn’t any dog hair on my black suit. I tried to prepare myself emotionally to tell my story in court. I wasn’t so much afraid about telling my story in public, as about how I would explain my side of things without falling apart. It was hard. It’s still hard, waiting for the judge to decide my case. But I know this fight is about my dignity and equality. And I know it’s worth it.
Sometimes it seems surreal to me that I’m involved in this case. I’ve never had the spotlight on me—it seems like something I would read about in the news, something someone else would do. But then I think, I have worked hard and paid my taxes. I deserved to be treated like any other taxpayer.
I want to thank GLAD for work they’ve done and continue to do on my behalf. And for the work they do for all of us. That is part of the reason why I volunteer on the InfoLine – it’s a very small way to pay it forward – to say Thank you GLAD. Thank you Ben, Karen and Jen for helping me.