City of Berkeley, campus offer many services for transgender community

Services offered for trans individuals in the Berkeley area
Helen Xu/Staff

Related Posts

Transgender people in the United States currently face abuse, mental health issues and lack of access to health care at higher rates than their cisgender counterparts, according to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey. Campus officials are working to increase access to resources for underserved transgender individuals, according to UC Berkeley Gender Equity Resource Center Director Billy Curtis.

According to Curtis, the number of transgender students has visibly increased on campus, especially among transfeminine and nonbinary students and faculty. He added that the UC Office of the President is working on compiling the data of the exact numbers of transgender individuals from applications and will have the data released within the next two years.

The Gender Equity Resource Center recently updated its webpage to highlight transgender resources and make a more comprehensive list.

Physical health and medical resources

Transgender people who seek gender-affirming medical alterations to their bodies potentially have a multitude of medical procedures available to them, including hormone therapies; breast augmentation, reduction and top surgeries; and gender-affirming surgeries, especially in the Berkeley area, where several organizations offer affordable and inclusive options.

For UC Berkeley students, staff members and faculty members as well as some other individuals loosely affiliated with the campus, the University Health Services, or UHS, Trans Care Team provides appropriate screenings for cancer and sexually transmitted diseases as well as outside referrals and hormone therapies for its patients, among other procedures. The UHS website also includes external links to videos and other informational sites to help people navigate the different medical procedures, including hormone therapies.

According to the UHS website, the Student Health Insurance Plan covers many gender-affirming procedures and treatments for transgender people, including top surgeries, hormone replacement therapies and 90 percent of the cost of gender-affirming surgeries. It does not include cosmetic surgeries such as facial bone reconstructions.

For students without campus health care coverage, staff members from the Trans Care Team, which employs 16 medical and psychiatric professionals, can be seen for a copay of $15 per visit. For outpatient treatments such as hormone replacement therapies, UHS staff members can send prescription refills to outside pharmacies and laboratories if needed.

Those who do not wish to go through UHS or who do not qualify for services through UC Berkeley have other options for affordable care in the Bay Area, including the San Francisco-based Lyon-Martin Health Services center and the Dimensions Clinic, which both specialize in low-cost services for LGBTQ+ individuals.

Lyon-Martin Health Services offers nine trans-specific services for its patients, about 59 percent of whom identify as transgender or genderqueer, according to its website. The center’s services are funded by some private insurance plans, a sliding fee scale, donations and county and state programs. It serves those in need regardless of what they are able to pay.

The Dimensions Clinic also serves those seeking transgender medical services, focusing on people aged 12 to 25 at a low cost or for free and operating with the mission of increasing the physical health, mental health and wellness of young LGBTQ+ people in a “culturally competent environment,” according to its website. Ten people work at the clinic to provide patients with services including hormone therapy, gender-affirming surgery referrals, birth control and contraception needs, standard physicals and HIV prevention tactics and treatments.

Mental health and medical resources

According to a 2016 study from the National Institutes for Health, transgender people have a much higher rate of suicide than the general population. In fact, it found that 32 percent of transgender people living in San Francisco attempted suicide at least once in their lives.

According to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — the most recently published edition of the guide used by mental health professionals in the diagnostic process of assessing patients — many transgender people experience gender dysphoria, which can cause “clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.”

“To me, psychotherapy for trans people is really important because it offers a level of relationship and connection as well as mirroring that they don’t get from just reality,” said Oakland-based private transgender psychotherapist Mahrs Schoppman. “My advice would be to really find (a therapist) where the relationship feels good to them.”

The UHS program has allocated seven transgender-specific mental health clinicians and one transgender-specific psychiatrist for patients seeking help. UHS also offers an option for students to request a queer-identifying doctor through UHS Counseling and Psychological Services.

For those without UHS access, other clinics in Berkeley focus on transgender mental health care. One block away from the Tang Center — the main UHS building — the Berkeley Free Clinic serves people who are 18 years or older with free counseling Monday through Saturday every week. The Pacific Center for Human Growth, which is located on Telegraph Avenue, also provides LBGTQ+-specific therapies and services with a sliding-scale payment program.

For those with the resources to seek the services of an individual external therapist, many therapists who themselves are transgender are licensed mental health professionals in the city of Berkeley, including Schoppman.

“They can explore their inner world but also their experience with oppression,” Schoppman said. “It’s really about a type of therapy that doesn’t separate thoughts, body and emotions.”

Legal services

According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 44 percent of transgender people who use an ID that does not match the way they identify experienced issues such as harassment, assault or being evicted from an establishment.

“Having gender-congruent identification is clearly important to the well-being of transgender people,” the report found. “Gender-incongruent identification presents barriers to travel, employment, health care, housing, education and other essential (areas) of life.”

For people in Berkeley who want to adjust their IDs to match their identities, options exist at many levels. Campus officials allow for students to change their preferred names on CalCentral once each without legal documentation through the registrar’s office.

External resources can help guide transgender people through officially changing their state IDs, including the Transgender Law Center. The state of California currently allows each resident to change their name, their gender identity or both after an application is filled out. As of January 2019, the official gender markers recognized by the state on IDs are female, male and nonbinary, according to the judicial branch of California’s website. 

Amenities resources

Transgender people’s access, or lack thereof, to facilities such as bathrooms has been a topic of the national conversation, but those in Berkeley have resources both on and off campus.

Many academic and residence halls on campus have all-gender restrooms. According to the UC Berkeley website, where people can find a campus map of all-gender restrooms, gender-inclusive restrooms are now part of campus standards for restrooms and are included in any new campus buildings.

The campus also recently developed a new gender-neutral locker room for the Recreational Sports Facility. According to the UC Berkeley Rec Sports website, the locker room is the “first of its kind in California” and was designed with the intention of reducing obstacles for its members as well as increasing accessibility and inclusivity.

Outside organizations such as Refuge Restrooms also provide similar resources for off-campus restrooms through databases and community submissions. Refuge Restrooms is a web application that tracks gender-neutral restrooms for transgender, intersex and gender-nonconforming individuals, according to its website. It also offers comment and rating options for each restroom.

“We firmly believe that everybody has the right to use the restroom in safety and we wanted the name of our application to have a little of (the) same dignity we want to give our users,” the organization says on its website. “One of the biggest battlefields upon which the fight for transgender rights is taking place daily are restrooms.”

Contact Kate Finman at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @KateFinman_DC