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UA Community Braces for Loss of Transgender Healthcare

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Transgender Healthcare

Teri Wright was originally going to use transgender health care benefits through the UofA but will be unable to because of the cutoff deadline in March.

 

 For the last several years, she advocated for the university to add gender-transition benefits to the UA employee insurance plans. She made phone calls, sent emails and voiced her concerns to the Human Resources department. When she found out that the university would finally include transgender health care insurance, she started making plans for her reassignment surgery from male to female.

Those plans came to an abrupt halt at the end of January.

Jan. 24, Teri Wright, the wife of a UA administrative assistant, received an email saying the university will suspend gender dysphoria coverage pending the outcome of the Affordable Care Act. Wright said she was devastated.

Beginning in January, the UofA was scheduled to include gender-dysphoria benefits in its insurance for faculty and staff members under a requirement from the Affordable Care Act, which prohibits discrimination based on gender identity, transgender status or gender stereotypes in facilities receiving federal financial assistance.

Gender dysphoria is listed as a medical diagnosis for being transgender in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Dec. 31, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas issued a “nationwide preliminary injunction on the Affordable Care Act regulations covering gender identity,” according to an email sent out to UA employees.

The injunction prohibits Health and Human Services from enforcing regulations that address gender identity and the coverage of gender dysphoria treatment, according to the email.

Due to the changes of the ACA regulations, the university decided to suspend gender dysphoria coverage pending the final outcome but will cover services received on or before March 6 of this year, according to the email.

This will be before Wright could have her surgery.

“As far as surgery goes, I doubt I’ll be able to get that in time. That kind of thing takes a while,” Wright said.

For most of her health care, Wright goes to the VA Medical Center in Fayetteville, but the organization cannot do gender reassignment surgeries.

Wright said she always knew she was a woman. When she met her wife in high school, and when the two started dating nearly 20 years later, she was presenting as a man.

They were married in May 2011, exchanging simple silver rings, just before her wife started a new job as an administrative assistant at the UofA.

Wright spent a lot of her time online playing virtual reality games, living with the sinking feeling that she was not “normal.”

In these virtual reality games, players can build their characters, choosing hair color, body type and sex. Wright always chose to be a woman.

These fantasies became reality when one year into her marriage, Teri decided to come out to her wife.

Soon after, Wright began the process of presenting as a woman, which included hormone therapy, surgery and learning how to put on makeup.

Since Wright began her transition, she and her wife have mentored other couples going through a transition.

In the beginning of January, Wright started working on receiving gender reassignment surgery and met with a doctor in Dallas, she said.

“I wanted to get this done as quickly as possible because of this uncertainty with the new administration,” Wright said. “It was in the works, and I had my consultation, but they said they doubt if they can get it through in time.”

Wright is not sure what she plans to do next.

“I have thoughts of moving to another state, someplace that is more friendly,” Wright said. “Everyone should receive necessary medical treatment.”

 

Editor-in-Chief Ginny Monk contributed to this report.

 

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