As an institution committed to seeing LGBTQ+ faculty, staff, and students thrive, Johns Hopkins University and Medicine today announced important expansions of their gender-affirming care benefits and support.
Beginning today, Johns Hopkins health insurance plans will be updated and aligned enterprisewide to cover an expanded range of gender-affirming care for all users of these plans. All the plans—most of which previously offered coverage for gender-affirming surgeries in addition to hormone therapy—will extend coverage to include additional gender-affirming care procedures, namely voice therapy and facial reconstructive procedures. Hopkins will also close coverage gaps and align all enterprisewide plans to offer the same levels of coverage.
"Gender-affirming care is evidence-based medical best practice that, for transgender, non-binary, and gender diverse people, is essential health care that enhances quality of life and overall well-being," wrote Pierre Joanis, JHU's vice president for human resources; Kevin Shollenberger, JHU's vice provost for student health and well-being; and Inez Stewart, senior vice president and chief human resources officer for Johns Hopkins Medicine, in a message to the Johns Hopkins community.
"It is our obligation to ensure that our services and benefits to employees and students are reviewed regularly so that all members of our community are able to thrive personally and professionally here at Hopkins," said JHU President Ron Daniels. "Members of our community who are transgender and non-binary made it clear that these enhancements were important and meaningful to them, and we are pleased to now provide them as part of our standard benefits program and services."
Moving forward, Johns Hopkins University and Health System will continue to be guided by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health as they review and assess their practices. More information about accessing gender-affirming care can be found on the website for the Johns Hopkins Center for Transgender Health.
"It's been wonderful to witness the evolution of the Johns Hopkins Center for Transgender Health and to see the important work being done by the center to support members of the transgender community," noted Theodore DeWeese, interim dean of the medical faculty and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine. "These new student and employee health benefits are a reflection of our devotion to inclusivity and our commitment to the transgender members of our Johns Hopkins family."
These changes come alongside other recent initiatives to better serve the LGBTQ+ community at Johns Hopkins. Hopkins has implemented IT solutions across both the university and the health system to allow for the use of chosen names and pronouns across many of the systems, including on ID badges and diplomas. Among the changes, where previously the Student Information System (SIS) would display both the student's chosen name and legal name, changes to SIS mean that for both students and faculty, chosen name is the only name that will display.
Fueled by advocacy from students and faculty, Johns Hopkins began supporting the use of chosen first names in many systems in 2019, but the latest update expands to chosen middle and last names, and streamlines the ways computer systems share chosen names.
"I think it's really important at Hopkins that we allow people to represent themselves the way they want to be seen," says Demere Woolway, executive director of Inclusive Excellence Education and Development at JHU. "These changes allow us to do that consistently across systems."
Another update discards previous language that referred to "preferred names." Associate Director of Gender & Sexuality Resources Abbey Nawrocki points out the importance of this distinction: "Oftentimes, LGBTQIA+ folks are made to feel like our identities are reduced to merely preferences, rather than deeply felt, valid parts of who we are. ... Using the language of chosen name is a way for the Hopkins community to show respect to people's ability to define their own identities."
Nawrocki, who uses both they and she pronouns, hopes the chosen name updates lessen the frequency of queer and trans students being called by their incorrect name, or deadname, and having to out themselves on campus. They added: "Creating an affirming campus environment takes continuous effort, and I'm happy to celebrate this step."
Recent efforts also extend to enhanced gender-affirming care supports for Hopkins students, brought about by ongoing dialogue among representatives of university leadership and students who have championed improvements. Students can now access hormonal therapy and mental health evaluations for letters of readiness, which is typically required for certain gender-affirming surgeries, through student health and well-being services.
"We are so pleased to share these changes with you, and we will continue our work to assure our diverse students, faculty, staff, and postdoc populations feel welcomed, affirmed, safe, and supported by Johns Hopkins," wrote Joanis, Shollenberger, and Stewart in their message.