At the age of 74, Denee Mallon never set out to make history, only for the chance to live authentically, as who she truly is. But thanks to her determination, she successfully challenged Medicare’s ban on providing sex affirming surgeries in a groundbreaking case brought by NCLR and legal partners.
After winning the case and obtaining the gender-affirming surgery she waited so long to have, Denee remarked “I feel congruent, like I’m finally one complete human being where my body matches my innermost feelings, my psyche.” Denee joined the United States Army at 17 and later worked for a local police department. She married and parented children. She always knew that her innermost self was female, though, stating, “It’s a deep-seated thing that requires expression, no matter how you try and stamp it out.” As Denee’s life progressed, the attitudes and culture of the times prevented her from seeking the medically necessary care she needed. By the time attitudes and minds began to shift, she could no longer afford treatment on her fixed Social Security income. Many people would have given up. But not Denee. She continued to fight, and her persistence has now opened the door to lifesaving care for thousands of other transgender people on Medicare.
Denee also does not see this as just her victory. She knows how much this victory will affect others. She is the President of Veterans for Equal Rights in her hometown, she volunteers at the local transgender center, and marches in the Albuquerque Veterans Day Parade. She especially likes to volunteer with transgender youth and said, “I like helping young people decide what the right decision is for them. I see my role as helping people discover who they are, whether it’s what I would do or not.” LGBTQ elders are among the most important and rapidly growing segment of our community, and NCLR continues to fight fiercely for their needs. Denee is a shining example of what hard work and determination can achieve.