University of Michigan students gathered at the University Spectrum Center Wednesday evening for a town hall discussion on creating a plan to implement an informed consent model for gender-affirming care at University Health Services. At the event, ten students worked to identify and address health care disparities for transgender students at U-M.
The students explained that at UHS, individuals who wish to receive gender-affirming care must first obtain a letter of support from a licensed mental health provider, following the standards of care outlined by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health. In place of receiving a clinical diagnosis, town hall attendees advocated for UHS to begin using an informed consent model. This would let individuals receive treatment on a consensual basis instead of having to receive a diagnosis.
LSA senior Camomile Honey lead the town hall meeting. In an interview with The Daily, she said the WPATH Standards of Care followed by UHS puts up unnecessary barriers for students wishing to receive hormone therapy.
“When it comes to the WPATH Standards of Care, the big word that comes out is gatekeeping,” Honey said. “It’s fundamentally difficult for students, more difficult than an informed consent model, but it also sends the wrong message in a lot of ways.”
According to the UHS website, UHS currently follows the WPATH Standards of Care to give individuals the best care possible. The website also points users towards the Corner Health Care Center in Ypsilanti if they wish to receive gender-affirming care using the informed consent model.
“We acknowledge and affirm that you are the expert on your own body, identity, and experience,” the website reads. “As the initiation of hormone therapy is a new service at UHS, for now, we are following the WPATH Standards of Care to ensure that you receive the high-quality care you deserve.”
In an interview with The Daily after the event, Engineering senior Violet Boyse-Peacor said she was concerned when she found out UHS still uses the WPATH Standards of Care, as she feels it is an older practice.
“It’s easy, but it’s also a pain to get informed consent because you have to get to Ypsilanti (to Corner Health Care Center),” Boyse-Peacor said. “When I learned that you had to use WPATH (at UHS), I was slightly surprised.”
Boyse-Peacor said she has previously traveled to Corner Health Care Center to receive gender-affirming care under the informed consent model. Engineering junior Caitlin Beach told The Daily telling students to travel to Ypsilanti for hormone therapy has caused the Corner Health Care Center’s waitlist to become months long, preventing them from quickly receiving the care they desire.
“(The WPATH model) doesn’t give respect to the people looking for the service,” Beach said. “It gives respect to people who are practitioners, who are psychiatrists, not the patient.”
Beach said sending students elsewhere for care using the informed consent model could potentially cause students to lose trust in other UHS services.
“When you’re going that far to avoid that process, you’re not going to be as confident when you go for a surgery (at the University) and you need three letters (of consent) to do that,” Beach said. “Right now, it’s inefficient and overall increases the number of hours put into a patient when it shouldn’t need to be that way.”
At the town hall, attendees discussed their own experiences when attempting to receive gender reaffirming care at UHS. Individuals voiced concerns regarding the current WPATH model, saying it puts up unnecessary barriers for those wishing to receive gender-affirming care.
To address this issue, the attendees plan to reach out to the Trans Care Team and set up a meeting early next semester to discuss the possible steps to achieving the informed consent model. By talking to the team along with other professionals at UHS, the group said they hope to continue the conversation of informed consent, discuss ways the team is helping them as well as ways they would be able to improve their care.
Honey said she has received care from the Trans Care Team at the University and had a positive experience. She hopes the group can help them better serve the LGBTQ+ community on campus.
“I found that the doctors were really supportive,” Honey said. “They are open to talking to students, I felt heard … In a lot of ways, this whole meeting is about helping them out as well.”