Last Wednesday, the University’s Health Services and insurance administrators announced that in coming years, the student insurance plan will cover sex reassignment procedures for transgender students. This progressive move, which places Brown among a small group of 36 pioneering schools to offer insurance coverage of full sex reassignment procedures to students, is more than just a new feature at the University. It is an affirmation of commitment to community. It’s an assurance to our transgender colleagues that they will be equally cared for as part of the Brown family. And it is just the kind of progressive policy those who are not transgender can use to engage with issues relevant to transgender students at Brown.
This is no simple commitment: Sex reassignment can be a lengthy, expensive and multidisciplinary affair. It requires cooperation from primary care providers, psychologists or psychiatrists and surgeons, with extensive resources coming from each, including consultations, hormone treatments and physical reconstruction surgery. All of this can amount to $50,000. Brown has declared it is willing to make this kind of effort for the transgender community within its student body. Without this policy, these students would have had to pay their own ways through the procedures, or sought outside insurance, sometimes without the help of their families.
The move brings our student insurance plans up to date with the precedents set by national insurance companies, something the large majority of college-level institutions have so far failed to do. The American Medical Association House of Delegates voted in June 2008 to declare refusing insurance coverage of sexual reassignment procedures is grounds for claims of discrimination, opening the door to lawsuits against insurance companies that did not yet cover such procedures. Guaranteeing coverage of sex reassignment is a smart move for a University that does not want to force its students to wade through red tape, either in a legal case or in searching for other insurance, for something that already is more or less guaranteed by the national representative body of physicians.
But just because the University’s Health Services has acknowledged and accepted transgender students, that does not exempt the student body from its responsibility to do the same. The institution’s policy is only part of the equation of building an alliance and support for LGBTQ individuals at Brown and beyond. The other part is for the rest of us to develop an acute understanding of the experiences of those who identify as transgender and vice versa.
It is our collective responsibility to educate ourselves about the issues of sex reassignment and the stories of those who have undergone that process. Mere tolerance is never enough.
We are here to expand our comprehensions of the world and to challenge and overcome our preconceived assumptions and biases. We ask the members of the Brown student body who have not already done so to get closer to these issues of gender identity in wake of this announcement. Alliance is more than acceptance, and true community can only come from understanding and honest interest in the experiences of our peers. This is as true of transgender students at Brown as it is of everyone else. Only we carry the ability to make our campus the safe space it deserves to be.
Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board: its editor, Dan Jeon, and its members, Mintaka Angell, Samuel Choi, Nicholas Morley and Rachel Occhiogrosso. Send comments to email@example.com.