Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Hormone treatment at UHS ‘a big step’ for transgender students

By Shelby Ashline

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Shannon Broderick/Daily Collegian)

(Shannon Broderick/Daily Collegian)

The Stonewall Center announced Monday that after more than a year of coordination, University Health Services can now prescribe, inject or teach to inject and monitor hormones for transgender students.

The announcement came as a pleasant surprise to members of the transgender community at the University of Massachusetts, including Taylor Glickman, an organizer of Gender Liberation UMass who learned the news through a post on the Stonewall Center’s Facebook page.

“When I did hear it, it was honestly excitement and shock,” Glickman said. “Even though GLU is very involved in the policies, I had no idea how deep this was.”

The development resulted from persistent discussion between UHS and the Stonewall Center – a resource center for LGBTQIA+ students – and other student groups like GLU.

According to Genny Beemyn, director of the Stonewall Center, students have been asking for hormone treatment to be offered on campus for a long time and have recognized it as an important issue. It simply was not easy to figure out how UHS would offer such a program.

“UHS has always been very supportive,” Beemyn said. “It’s always been a question of ‘how,’ not of ‘why.’”

The original plan, according to Beemyn, was to offer a clinic starting in September with nurse practitioner J. Aleah Nesteby from Baystate Health. However, Nesteby’s services are high in demand and she was unable to get clearance from Baystate Health.

Meanwhile, none of the physicians at UHS were qualified to give hormones when the topic was brought up last year, Beemyn said.

“Since that time, Ilana Schmitt has educated herself and now she is qualified,” Beemyn said. “UHS came up with this as the best solution to do something in-house.”

According to the Stonewall Center’s Facebook post, Schmitt, a staff physician with UHS, will be prescribing hormone treatments while working closely with registered nurse Cindy Hildebrand, who is the transgender “point person” for UHS.

In an email, Schmitt said that UHS is still in the process of establishing the logistics of the new program, but that the goal is for it to be consistent with the hormone treatment program already established at Hampshire College. Beemyn explained that this is because UHS covers physician contracts for Hampshire College, so the programs will be closely linked.

At UMass, hormone treatment – as well as sex reassignment and gender-affirming surgeries for transgender students – has always been covered by the university health insurance. However, qualified physicians have not been readily available.

“Prior to this policy, students would have to go off campus to get access to hormones, and not even immediately off campus either,” Beemyn said.

Hormone treatment is available in Northampton, they explained, but students faced a long waiting list. Springfield offers treatment with a shorter wait time, but it is quite difficult for students to find transportation. Other than Northampton and Springfield, Boston is the next closest option for transgender students, Beemyn said.

Glickman, who has had hormone treatment himself, understands the troubles that Beemyn spoke of and recognizes how significant the new program will be for transgender students at UMass.

“I have to go to Springfield to see someone,” he said. “The fact that students don’t have to figure out rides to someone in Springfield or have to wait for months for an appointment in Northampton is a big step.”

Glickman added that it is a great feeling to see the University responding to the needs of transgender students and that “this is definitely a move towards progress.”

“I know that this will probably attract a lot of incoming students also,” he added. “Depending on where you are in the country, it’s very difficult for people to transition medically… There are very few colleges where you can get access to hormone transitioning in the campus’ health center.”

 

Shelby Ashline can be reached at [email protected] or followed on Twitter @shelby_ashline.

 

1 Comment

One Response to “Hormone treatment at UHS ‘a big step’ for transgender students”

  1. Scott on November 18th, 2015 3:03 pm

    Does this mean the football team can go to UHS for steroids so they’ll be less terrible?

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