Students Demand Trans Inclusive Healthcare for UA Employees

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Dear President Robbins:


We, University of Arizona students, faculty, staff, and affiliates are writing to you in solidarity with our transgender faculty and staff members to demand a solution to the currently discriminatory health insurance policies offered to our institution’s employees – all of which exclude coverage for almost all forms of transition-related care.


To provide a bit of context, up until this past January, UA employee health insurance did not include any medical coverage for transition-related care, including gender affirming surgeries, hormone therapies, and mental health care. While there have been marginal adjustments to these policies in recent months, many of these necessary services remain uncovered and, as a result, often inaccessible. This stands in stark contradiction with UA student health insurance, which covers most transition-related care. According to the Philadelphia Center for Transgender Surgery, surgical procedures and related care can cost upwards of $100,000 without insurance (Jackson, 2015). On-going hormone therapy also adds up, between the cost of medication, bloodwork, and doctor’s visits. Transgender employees – as well as cisgender employees with transgender dependents – cannot and should not be expected to take on these massive costs. To do so not only demonstrates a lack of care towards these members of our campus community but also is discriminatory in its very nature.


It is paradoxical that the University of Arizona is striving to become a hub for transgender studies scholarship via the Institute for LGBT Studies and Transgender Studies Initiative (TSI), all the while transgender employees on campus are struggling to afford services necessary for their physical, emotional, and professional well-being. How can we expect to recruit and retain transgender faculty and staff – individuals who enrich our campus academically and co-curricularly – if we do not offer them the health care coverage that they need? What impact does this have on students, especially LGBTQ+ students, who rely on the mentorship and support of these employees?


According to a February 23, 2017 press release responding to the Depart of Justice and the Department of Education rescinding federal guidelines protecting transgender students and affording them the right to use the school restroom that aligns with their gender identities, UA made the following claim:


The University of Arizona has a long-held commitment to maintaining a safe working and learning environment for all members of our community, and that commitment has not changed. Central to the University’s core values is respect and appreciation for the diversity inherent in our campus community. We strive to ensure that everyone who comes to our campus feels safe, respected, and supported. Consistent with the University’s Nondiscrimination and Anti-harassment Policy that prohibits discrimination and harassment on the basis of gender identity… (University of Arizona, 2017).


Denying transgender employees coverage for transition-related care does not “ensure that everyone who comes to our campus feels safe, respected, and supported.” Instead, these discriminatory health care policies impact day-to-day life of many employees on campus, burdening them with extremely high and even exclusionary healthcare costs. This negatively impacts their physical, emotional, and professional well-being, systematizing a hierarchy of care that is in part founded upon transphobia. It is the legal and ethical responsibility of the University to actively confront these systemic inequalities and to ensure that transgender community members are not only accepted, but actively supported, on campus.

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