An increasing number of universities, many of them elite private institutions, are offering their students health insurance plans with coverage for gender reassignment surgery, The New York Times reported Tuesday. Brown University has announced that it will begin to cover sex-change surgery this coming August, joining what has been a decade-long fight on behalf of activists to get colleges to recognize transgender needs on campus. About the controversial issue, there are those who argue that sex-change surgeries are cosmetic and therefore undeserving of university medical plan coverage. Many forward-thinking individuals, however, argue that sex-change surgeries are absolutely essential to the wellbeing of the transgender individual, and that to rob that individual of the benefits of gender reassignment surgery is ultimately to diminish that individual’s quality of life.
But in considering covering sex-change surgeries, colleges must calculate costs. Gender reassignment surgeries are needed by a considerably small part of a student population — the fiscal threat looms, but it could be relatively small. But should a university also be required to cover the costs of post-surgery and hormone therapy in addition to covering the surgery itself? Ostensibly yes — such things are often necessary. Many universities already offer the latter services.
Still, a university should do its best to serve as a security network for transgender individuals, some of whom may find themselves alienated by families unwilling to cover the costs of gender reassignment procedures. According to the Times, universities are lagging behind the corporate world. The Human Rights Campaign reported that about one-quarter of Fortune 500 companies have health plans that cover sex changes in addition to hormone therapy.
Inasmuch as one has the freedom to be what one feels, we would hope that a college campus would be able to support an individual in need of life-changing (and bettering) surgeries. This would constitute a jump towards further social acceptance and progress, but it still remains to be determined what sort of surgery a college is obligated to finance.