The Tennessee Conservative [By Paula Gomes] –
A drag queen who goes by the name The Lady Viktra, and an academic advisor from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) are both suing the state of Tennessee for refusing to pay for their sex change operations.
The two men, who live as women, had the surgeries denied by their public employee health insurance plans after the operations were scheduled.
The state policy, which insures 290,000 state employees, dependents and retirees, does not cover treatments “for, or related to, sex transformations,” something the plaintiffs say is both unconstitutional and discriminatory.
Story VanNess, a drag performer and Program Director of Trans/Nonbinary Support at Knox Pride, was working as a special education teacher at a Knox County public school at the time, while Gerda Zinner is still employed by UTC as an academic advisor for the division of the humanities for the College of Arts and Sciences.
In that role, Zinner serves as the primary professional advisor for those students working toward earning a degree in the humanities which includes the departments of English, History, Modern & Classical languages, and Philosophy & Religion. Zinner also teaches in the UTC Department of History and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program.
VanNess, who worked as a teacher at Vine Middle School from 2016 until 2022, has performed in local drag shows since 2003. In March, VanNess told the UT Daily Beacon that Drag is art, but also a political statement. VanNess left Vine Middle School last summer after the sex change operation was denied by insurance.
The pair are suing the State, the University of Tennessee, and Knox County Board of Education, as well as several insurance committees in Tennessee after filing complaints of sex discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission last August.
The Department of Justice issued both VanNess and Zinnera notice of rights to sue in May.
A spokesperson from the office of Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti has said that the lawsuit will be vigorously defended.
About the Author: Paula Gomes is a Tennessee resident and reporter for The Tennessee Conservative. You can reach Paula at firstname.lastname@example.org.