Editorial | Transcending boundaries

Extending transgender insurance benefits to faculty, staff is in line with the University’s commitment to diversity

· March 1, 2012, 1:03 am   ·  Updated March 1, 2012, 1:17 am

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For two years now, Newsweek has ranked Penn the most gay-friendly college in the United States. The University’s decision to extend transgender insurance benefits to employees is admirable and reaffirms its commitment to diversity.

On July 1, Penn will offer a health insurance plan that will provide adequate coverage for those with Gender Identity Disorder. According to the American Medical Association, GID can lead to psychological distress, depression, suicide attempts and death. One way that individuals receive treatment for GID is gender reassignment surgery, which will now be covered by Penn’s insurance plan.

Penn’s decision to offer such transgender benefits is in line with the spirit of the Action Plan for Faculty Diversity and Excellence, which was unveiled in June. The $100 million plan, aims to hire and retain more minority faculty members over the next five years.

By extending benefits to transgender individuals, the University also extends its mission to recruit and retain the most talented faculty and staff — regardless of their gender, race or sexual orientation.

This also marks a major step in transforming Penn into a more trans-friendly workplace. Diversity in outward markers often reflects diversity of experience and thought, which are highly beneficial for a college community.

It is disappointing that faculty and staff are only receiving this coverage now — almost two years since students began to reap the same benefits. The University, however, deserves credit for finally rectifying this inconsistency by providing comparable coverage to equally deserving parties.__

This is a landmark event worth celebrating. News of the policy change, however, was buried in page 6 of Tuesday’s Penn Almanac. Rather than downplaying its importance, Penn should embrace the policy change and recognize the educational opportunity at hand.

The LGBT community, in particular, should use this as a gateway to further the knowledge of Penn students, faculty and staff on transgender issues. Its lobbying and advocacy work has finally come to fruition. Now it’s time to educate.

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