American universities may finally be catching up to Iran on LGBT rights. Our foe to the east offers state-funded sexual reassignment surgeries. Now Brown University’s student health insurance plan will also be picking up the tab for 14 different gender-shifting surgeries starting in August. The Brown Daily Herald reports:
“We identified this as an important benefit for students to have access to,” [Director of Insurance and Purchasing Services Jeanne] Hebert wrote [in an email to the Herald], adding that the change was in line with “Brown’s efforts to support all students.” The coverage will be funded through renewal rates paid for next year’s student healthcare coverage, she wrote. In general, the total package of sexual reassignment surgeries, hormone therapy and other services can cost up to $50,000.
Iran and Brown took two different routes to reach the same destination. Iran offers the surgeries as a way for homosexuals to circumvent the law condemning them to death. But in America, Brown’s decision reflects changing social attitudes toward transgender issues. While most insurance companies do not view gender reassignment surgeries as medically necessary, some states have pushed back, claiming that if surgeries like breast reconstruction are covered for breast cancer patients essentially for mental health and social reasons, there is no reason why they should be denied to transgendered people. San Francisco, Portland (Oregon), and Berkeley now cover sex reassignment surgeries for government employees, as did around 90 large corporations including Coca-Cola and Walt Disney as far back as 2010.
Among universities, Brown now joins the ranks of Cornell, Harvard, Stanford, and UPenn in offering this benefit to its students. That’s their choice to make and we wish everyone involved nothing but the best. But these questions of identity and surgery are complicated, and undergraduates sometimes make hasty decisions. In our enlightened society, unless you want to do something truly dangerous like having a beer, the age of majority is now 18 for trivialities like gender reassignment surgery, getting facial tattoos or going tens of thousands of dollars in hock for loans you don’t understand and can’t discharge in bankruptcy. Eighteen-year-old kids away from home for the first time have some interesting new decisions to make.
Reputable doctors won’t carry out certain procedures without a lot of counseling, but there are loopholes in everything. Parents may be in for a surprise when their kids visit on the holidays, as privacy laws dictate that parents neither have to provide consent nor even be informed of such procedures. There could be some parents who send Jane off to school with a $50,000 tuition check in September, hear nothing from them, and then welcome Jim home in May.
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