Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
October 4, 2022

University updates gender-affirming care benefits but trans students maintain unmet demands

By HELEN LACEY | August 9, 2022

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Trans students advocate for additional demands from the University. 

The University expanded gender-affirming care benefits on July 1 to cover additional procedures, including voice therapy and facial reconstructive procedures. These changes put the University in line with the current World Professional Association for Transgender Health standards.

Junior Eirnin Mahoney discussed their thoughts on the University’s initiatives in an email to The News-Letter. 

“This is an important step forward in expanding the University's support for trans people,” they wrote. “However, more needs to be done because there are still some major flaws in the naming systems, such that people's deadnames still show up in University systems all the time.”

While students can now change their preferred name and pronouns on SIS, deadnames and initials still appear on MyChart and JHED IDs. 

In an interview with The News-Letter, doctoral student Luce deLire described how these flaws make medical care inaccessible to trans students.

“In order to make these systems accessible, you have to get deadnamed because MyChart is one of those [areas] that [Hopkins] doesn’t have access to. They can’t change it,” she said.

In an email to the Hopkins community on July 8, administrators added that they are creating other programs to improve care for its LGBTQ+ community, such as allowing students’ preferred names and pronouns to appear on University and health systems.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

Vice President for Communications Andrew Green outlined future efforts to amend problems with naming systems in an email to The News-Letter.

“The project is ongoing. We have reviews or changes in progress for ten additional systems or parts of systems,” he wrote. “Some of these changes may be implemented in the fall semester while others will come next year.”

In addition to University naming systems, trans students experience other barriers to gender-affirming care. These include short timelines to access procedures and a lack of streamlined resources for requesting and tracking care.

Jo Giardini, a postdoctoral fellow, stressed that students are under the University’s health insurance for a limited time in an interview with The News-Letter.

“Very often, the timelines for actually accessing care and getting procedures performed will exceed the timeline that we actually have access to these insurance benefits,” they said.

In an interview with The News-Letter, Ryan Warwick, a doctoral student, emphasized the importance of working to further medical care for trans students.

“We need a streamlined resource that shows people timelines for how they get these procedures and what the actual process is, and those need to be followed by the medical staff,” he said. “As of right now, if you know to ask for the procedure and you agitate for yourself, they will eventually have to cover it, but that’s not really care, is it?”

Although the University has made changes to its health insurance policy and some IT systems, many of the demands made by trans students this past academic year have not been resolved. 

Mahoney explained why the University should respond to these demands.  

“[The University] really should [revoke Merkel’s honorary degree] because it would signal that the University is truly listening to its trans affiliates,” they wrote. “I am disappointed that the University has not made more efforts to place trans people in positions of leadership in general and specifically when it comes to trans issues.”

Trans students have also added onto their unmet demands.

Students are advocating to rename the Paul McHugh Program for Human Flourishing. McHugh has a history of endorsing transphobic practices, notably closing the gender identity clinic at the Hopkins Hospital in 1979. 

Moreover, Mahoney asserted that introducing pronouns should be universally recommended to faculty and staff to counter the narrative that pronouns can be assumed by physical appearances. 

While Green noted that staff at the Student Health and Wellness Center receive regular training on gender-affirming care practices, Mahoney highlighted some of the issues that they faced.

“The diversity and inclusion training provided to faculty and staff seems to be insufficient for them to effectively support trans students,” they wrote. “Though most faculty and staff have good intentions, they often use incorrect language that, according to one professor I spoke to, is actually being taught during staff trainings.”

According to Warwick, activists also demand compensation for their work in advocating for trans issues.  

“Focusing on these easy deliverables misses the point of what we’re trying to do, which is to not only make [Hopkins] a welcoming place for queer and trans students but to really organize around these issues and make it a place where we can do the work that we need to do and are compensated fairly for that work,” they said.

Trans activists hope to expand their initiatives to ignite change outside of the Hopkins community. 

Giardini addressed the shortcomings of the current demands.

“[These demands] are going to shape the experiences of people within the University,” they said. “However, they do not speak at all to the ability of people outside the University to access care, which is a super vital and difficult thing in Baltimore.”

deLire emphasized that it is essential to encourage international solidarity for trans people.

“It’s important that as queer and trans people we do not get into the trap of thinking of our needs as confined to national borders,” she said. “National agendas have always been essentially cis-gendered and heterosexual, and they have always tried to preserve this cis-gendered and heterosexual mindset and included those trans and queer people who can fit that bill.”

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