UC-Berkeley Expands Student Health Care Plan To Include Transgender Services

In the midst of a nationwide struggle for healthcare, UC-Berkeley has started providing its transgender students with the opportunity for healthcare coverage that now includes fertility preservation and laser hair removal, according to The Daily Californian.

University Health Services SHIP manager Bahar Navab and medical director Anna Harte say that hormones used to treat gender dysphoria (the term used to describe the diagnosis of those whose birth-assigned gender does not match their personal gender identification) often cause fertility damage.

Furthermore, research suggests that many trans individuals that stop taking these hormones suffer from psychological damage. Now, fertility preservation services are available to all of Berkeley’s SHIP subscribers, including students with other medical necessities, such as ovarian cancer.

“Trans and gender nonconforming people unfortunately face not only ignorance but also sometimes stigma on the part of the clinical providers who need to care for them, in part because most clinicians have not been trained in this aspect of healthcare,” Navab said in an email.

Cosmetic procedures have increased by 39% over the past five years (from 2011) with surgical procedures up 17% and nonsurgical procedures up 44%. And while the umbrella term ‘cosmetic procedure’ applies to most procedures designed to improve visual aesthetics, many of these surgeries are especially necessary for trans individuals to feel comfortable in their own skin.

Still, this isn’t the first time SHIP has made an effort to cater to the medical needs of its transgender students. Last fall, the program was expanded to include male-to-female top surgeries, tracheal shaves, and a painful hair rejuvenation method called electrolysis.

Experts say laser hair removal is a much less painful method of permanent hair removal that requires less frequent treatments. Most surgeons recommend follow-up treatment intervals of approximately four to eight weeks, and Navab refers to the procedure as a “critically important and often under-supported … treatment for transfeminine people.”

Ultimately, ASUC Senator-elect Juniperangelica Cordova feels that while SHIP is doing a “good job” by enhancing trans students’ benefits and services, it’s important to make sure trans students understand and feel secure with their healthcare providers.

“It’s a matter of making sure that everyone who works at Tang is up-to-date in terms of using our names and our pronouns,” said Cordova. “I’m excited to see new procedures and new coverage being added and I’m looking forward to working with Tang this year in making sure trans folks are healthy.”

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