On May 14 the Graduate Student Senate at Ohio University passed a resolution adding four additional benefits to next year’s student health insurance policy. These new benefits include coverage for travel immunizations, the removal of exclusion for drug and alcohol-related injuries, the hiring of a student health insurance advocate on campus, and the addition of transgender health care.
New policy additions
Graduate Student Senate President Tracy Kelly explained that all of these benefits will combine to serve a larger population of the student body. Travel immunizations will now be covered for those students who want or are required to study abroad, students can seek help even if intoxicated at the time of their injury, and a professional will be on campus to explain the health insurance policy to students who need assistance.
But perhaps the most interesting addition is that of transgender health care. The new policy will allow for the coverage of hormones and surgeries, up to the premium, for transgender students.
“If I was prescribed estrogen it would be covered because I’m a woman. If a male changing to a female was prescribed estrogen it wouldn’t. We’re really just taking out language that prohibits the coverage of hormones and surgeries for the students who need it,” said Kelly.
Others who also support the addition maintain that the previous language of the policy was discriminatory toward transgender students. Kris Grey, a graduate student who identifies as gender queer, is a member of Graduate Student Senate as well as an advocate for the addition of transgender health care to the policy.
“In terms of my options, I had to purchase it [the student health insurance policy]. It was blatantly discriminatory toward me and other people I know. Once I saw it I couldn’t ‘unsee’ it,” said Grey.
Fellow students felt the same way. Holly Moody covered the Graduate Student Senate meetings and vote on the new additions for The Post and “kept tabs” with different members and their opinions.
“One student said if he knew they didn’t have trans health care coverage he wouldn’t have come here, so it was a huge issue,” said Moody. “A few international students spoke about how the policy would be too much for them.. the price may be too high and not really in their favor. But most of the attention on the issue was positive,” she added.
What is transgender health care?
The term “transgender” can be used to describe those who are male and identify as female, those who are female and identify as male, those who identify with both genders, and those who identify with neither gender. According to the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) website, transgender people could be undergoing health care for the body parts they have, hormone therapy to help their bodies appear as the gender they identify with, and surgical operations to do the same–all simultaneously.
It is important to note that not all transgender people elect to have hormone treatment or surgery to alter their bodies. It is a personal choice that is often made between a doctor and the patient. Because of the variety of medical necessities possible for a transgender patient, the importance of health insurance coverage is very high.
Transgender individuals also sometimes have a high risk of other health problems including HIV, physical or sexual violence, and some forms of cancer.
“I have not had any surgeries to remove my uterus or my ovaries, and because they’re in there and they’re no longer active–testosterone suppresses their normal cycle–they could very well develop things like cancers,” said Grey.
Other health issues that affect transgender people could include Gender Identity Disorder or other psychiatric problems. These health risks are not more prevalent in all transgender people and depend on each individual’s situation.
What is Gender Identity Disorder?
Gender Identity Disorder can be diagnosed by a doctor when a patient identifies as a gender other than the one assigned to them at birth. According to a document found on the AMSA website, this cross-gender identification cannot be based on cultural benefits one gender may have over another. The patient also must be impaired in some way by functioning as the gender assigned at birth. This could include discomfort with stereotypical gender roles, occupational discrimination or social distress.
Transgender awareness at Ohio University
Ohio University students have a few different options available to expose them to diversity, including different sexual orientations and gender identities. These opportunities can range from academic classes to student organizations.
Junior Emily McDonald is a student in the nursing program. She has been taught about Gender Identity Disorder in a Pathology class.
“My case might be special because I had a professor who had a relative with Gender Identity Disorder. She said her niece was born with both male and female parts and had surgery at a young age to become a female. Her family had to talk with her later so she understood exactly what she went through,” said McDonald.
The LGBT Center, located in Baker Center room 354, is another great resource for students on campus. The LGBT community is very active and hosts a variety of events throughout the school year. The LGBT activities cater to prospective students, current students and alumni. They offer multiple different programs such as SAFEZONE and SpeakOUT! as well as scholarships to members of the LGBT community.
“There are a lot of great really active folks on campus. There is a new activist group called Asterisk, which is an Athens area trans advocacy group. It’s not only an advocacy group for trans identified students but also allies. It’s a great way for people to get involved if they’re interested in learning more,” said Grey.
OU’s new policy: a big step forward
The new additions to the student health insurance policy will help serve the needs of more students than ever.
“The primary issue was people not wanting to pay an additional 10 dollars per year for something they may never use. The consensus of the body was that it is a worthwhile expenditure because it is a really significant benefit for those in the transgender community,” said Kelly.
According to Kelly, all the new additions will raise the price of the policy slightly more than fifty dollars per year, with the transgender benefit specifically accounting for ten dollars of that amount. Although the price will be higher, students such as Grey and Kelly feel that the benefits of the policy will far outweigh the costs.