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SU expands insurance coverage to cover cost of transition-related services for transgender faculty,staff

Syracuse University has joined a growing list of colleges that cover the cost of transition-related services for transgender faculty and staff members under insurance policies.

The participating colleges, which include Harvard, American and Yale universities, have reported that after the benefits are applied, there is little to no additional cost for transitional services, according to the Transgender Law and Policy Institute.

“I think that the decision to include this policy is a terrific step forward,” said Emily Vey Duke, co-chair of the University Senate Committee on LGBT Concerns. “It will work toward bringing forward the question of what it means to be a trans person, rather than casting it back into the shadows.”

The policy will also include coverage of domestic partner benefits, according to an April 17 report from the committee.

The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and the Senate committee on LGBT Concerns initiated discussion about the policy. At the same time, Health Services introduced a new committee to be more inclusive to the LGBT community. Health Services has encouraged the Senate committee on LGBT Concerns to be in contact.

The Senate committee followed up with several concerns that LGBT students had about their experiences at Health Services. There has also been discussion about the importance of making the human papillomavirus — or HPV — vaccine at Health Services available to both male students and young women, according to the report.

“Though there is still a lot to be done, I believe that we can identify these changes as part of a growing trend toward acceptance of transgendered issues,” Vey Duke said.

Margaret Himley, founding co-director of the LGBT Studies program, said she believes providing coverage for transition-related services is a basic health care right. The decision to cover these procedures opens the floor for discussion of social gender constructs, said Himley, who is also associate provost for international education and engagement.

One’s sense of gender is aligned with one’s body, Himley said, so transitional surgery can monumentally improve an individual’s physical and mental health. She said the new provision will serve as an important source of support for those who are transitioning.

“The provision will hopefully reduce problems associated with transphobia,” Himley said. “It will give us all an opportunity to rethink gender and sexuality.”

The new provision also comes at a time when recent findings released by the LGBT committee exposed the issue of homophobia within SU Athletics. Vey Duke described the issue of homophobia in SU Athletics as contentious, and said athletics, in particular, is an area in which the idea of “what should be female or male” is often deliberated.

SU Athletics mirrors the national findings of the LGBTQ College Athlete Report, according to the Senate report. The findings showed that student-athletes who identify as LGBT are twice as likely to experience harassment than their heterosexual teammates.

The Committee on LGBT Concern’s report also stated that SU received a five-star rating from the Campus Climate Index in 2010, which assesses the LGBT campus climate at institutions across the United States.

Himley said she believes the new provision will help further improve LGBT acceptance at SU.

“I think it’s a marked reaction of the university recognizing the realities of the trans community,” Himley said. “Anything that legitimates the experiences of transgender individuals is good for both transgendered individuals and the world at large.”

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