A place to turn
New network aims to make navigating UF more manageable for transgender students
By Dorothy Hagmajer
UPDATE: Trans Resource Network and Student Health Care Center endocrine protocol go live June 1
Transgender students seeking hormone therapy may now receive treatment at the University of Florida Student Health Care Center. As part of the initial stages of the Trans Resource Network, physicians, nurse practitioners and the pharmacy manager of the center worked with Reilly-Owen Clemens, J.D. and other campus representatives to create a training program for medical, nursing and secretarial staff to ensure a smooth transition for the endocrine protocol rollout. Additionally, the online network is now active and includes a myriad of resources for transgender individuals – view more online at http://lgbt.multicultural.ufl.edu/programs_services/trans_resource_network/.
After months of hard work, the Trans Resource Network is finally coming together.
Like a puzzle, the campus work group integrates different UF departments to create a bigger — and more manageable — picture. Up until now, accessing information concerning health care, legal services and counseling has been something of a scavenger hunt for trans-identifying students — one that could take a Gator from one end of campus to the other. The Trans Resource Network aims to solve that problem.
“It’s providing students with a space to turn to when they have a question or are looking for an answer, rather than having it be so spread out,” said LB Hannahs, director of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender affairs for UF. “People turn to this office anyways, but the network connects people who have similar questions to each other, because we don’t necessarily have all the answers, but someone in another place on campus might.”
Name changes, gender changes and health insurance overrides all take place in different departments. One procedure can require the signatures or files of at least two departments, creating a back-and-forth that can be both frustrating and time-consuming. Other times, it is the lack of documentation that makes the process difficult.
“They have a procedure for changing your gender (at the registrar) but it’s really informal. And so it’s hard to find,” said Reilly-Owen Clemens, J.D., a Center for Women’s Studies and Gender Research master’s candidate and the network’s initiator.
“You have to ask the right people. It’s hard to get an answer because you have to know who to ask and what question to ask and then write it up yourself. A lot of what I’m doing is standardizing things.”
Additionally, the Trans Resource Network intends to ensure that the availability of resources becomes synonymous with both accessibility and visibility.
“It’s opening up the system,” Clemens said. “If you make it easier to get hormones or counseling, people won’t have to tell what’s generally called ‘the trans narrative.’ They won’t have to tell them, ‘Oh, I knew since I was 4, etc.’ You would be able to just say, ‘This is how I feel. This is what I need.’”
The network also gives other UF departments beyond the Office of LGBT Affairs the chance to familiarize themselves with trans student issues.
“It’s not just about helping the students,” Clemens said. “It’s about helping staff provide services to trans-identified students in a way that’s inclusive but uses resources as well.”
Clemens hopes the Trans Resource Network at UF will set an example for other universities in Florida, and eventually spread to other southern states like Georgia or Alabama. She’s optimistic about it and points out that the concept the network is based on is a simple one.
“A lot of it is just getting the resources to the right people,” Clemens said. “And, surprisingly enough, if you put people in the same place and have them talk to each other, they do a lot of that on their own.”