Mayor Vincent Gray (D) announced on Feb. 27 in a press conference that insurance plans regulated by the D.C. government must cover transgender health care expenses, including gender-reassignment surgery.

D.C. Department of Insurance, Securities, and Banking (DISB) issued a bulletin that prohibits discrimination based on gender identity and expression by insurance companies writing health insurance in the District. This bulletin to health insurance companies will also recognize gender dysphoria as a medical condition.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the guide psychiatrists and physicians use to diagnose patients, labels gender dysphoria a condition in which an individual’s gender identity conflicts with societal expectations of them. Resolution in some cases includes surgery to facilitate the change from one gender to another.

The bulletin which was reissued with revisions clarifies that, “treatment for gender dysphoria, including gender reassignment surgeries, is a covered benefit, and individuals diagnosed with gender dysphoria are entitled to receive medically necessary benefits and services under individual and group health insurance policies covering medical and hospital expenses.”

”This action places the District at the forefront of advancing the rights of transgender individuals,” Gray said in his statements. ”It also fully implements the District’s Human Rights Act by incorporating gender identity and expression as protected classes in the District’s health insurance laws.”

Discriminatory languages like “sex change” that excluded certain services to transgender individuals were not enforceable and companies who used such language were advised to update their policy within 90 days of March of last year.

“I’m just so glad that this has happened because now other people who are in my position will be able to be treated,” said Leandrea Gilliam, 42, a training manager at Metro TeenAIDS.

Gilliam is a trans-woman who has dealt with personal health issues for many years. Because of the illness she was dealing with, Gilliam said the doctors knew that it had to be something deeper than her feeling as a trans-woman. Thanks to a doctor who went above and beyond, she later found out that she was actually an intersex person.

“Usually individuals who identify as (man or woman) are not able to get the endocrinology done on them because of the fact that they are male and it’s an expensive test. And mostly if you don’t have medical insurance it won’t cover it.”

Gilliam is on the mayor’s GLBT advisory committee and describes the new policy as a “great milestone.” Because of the implementation, Gilliam said trans-women and men will be better diagnosed and they can finally live happier and healthy lives.

“There have been a lot of shifts in the way that trans-women are receiving healthcare. Prior to this announcement, one thing is that those who were in need of healthcare weren’t able to get it, basically because of their binary sex. And I think that now, this opens up a gateway for all people to be able to get the services that they need.”