Westboro Baptist Church protests in Orlando

About 200 counter-protesters walk in downtown Orlando to block the view of four members of the Westboro Baptist Church from those attending the service of Christoper "Drew" Leinonen, a UCF alumnus and one of the 49 that were killed in Sunday's mass shooting at Pulse, a gay night club.

Transgender students wanting to undergo hormone-replacement therapy now won’t have to leave the university to receive a referral for treatment.

The University of Central Florida’s Counseling and Psychological Services facility has started offering transgender students referrals for HRT, which is meant to help synchronize an individual’s physical gender with the gender they identify with.

Before this decision, students were directed off-campus for the treatment. This meant high costs and longer waits to be seen, according to Karen Hofmann, licensed psychologist and director of UCF’s Division of Student Development and Enrollment Services.

“We want to help students with gender dysphoria, which is a real diagnosis that can cause a person to experience severe depression and other mental health concerns that could even be life threatening,” Hofmann said.

If a UCF student is interested in receiving a referral for HRT, they need to call the Counseling and Psychological Services and schedule an initial assessment, according to Hofmann. From there, CAPS will gather the necessary information for eligibility and determine if the student meets the CAPS scope of care.

Though this news was announced on Sept. 2, students are still reacting to it. 

Jenna Mckelvey, senior Anthropology major, has undergone HRT and said that the referrals would make the treatment much more accessible for transgender students than it was when she received it.

“I did have to drive downtown and I did have to pay for it,” Mckelvey said. “A free HRT letter is a good thing for someone who is starting it. It gets expensive.”

Some students felt that transgender healthcare should not be the role of a university.

Karis Lockhart, junior Public Administration major and Chairman of the UCF College Republicans questioned the validity of the decision.

“I personally do not agree with UCF's decision because I do not believe it is our university's place to involve itself in the healthcare of our students to this extreme,” Lockhart said.

Mckelvey said it should be considered that there are a lot of different ways a university can involve itself with students.

“I don’t think it’s improper for a university to try to provide more, because the more you provide for your students, the better they can succeed,” Mckelvey said.

Lockhart also expressed concern over how the referrals were being paid for.

According to Hoffman, the referrals aren’t causing any financial impact for the university.

“Students pay a health fee as part of their tuition fees,” Hofmann said. “This supports student Health Services, which includes the Alcohol and other Drugs Office, Wellness Services and CAPS.”

Being more inclusive and diverse is one of UCF’s main goals, according to Hofmann. The university has implemented other programs for LGBT students such as LGBT Services and Pride Commons, a safe space for LGBT students to gather. UCF has also made strides and accommodations for transgender students in other departments such as Housing and Residence Life and the Registrar’s Office.

Recently, UCF was given a rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars on the Campus Pride Index, which publishes statistics about how LGBT-friendly schools are based on the programs they offer.

“I would not be doing as well academically as I am if I still had gender issues hanging over me,” Mckelvey said. “If I hadn’t had access to the resources that I did, I don’t know what I’d be doing right now.”

Originally published September 14, 2016.

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