Duke U: The New Destination for Transgenders

Written by Stephanie Bertorelli on May 3, 2013

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Duke University has joined 37 other universities and made the decision to offer coverage for gender reassignment surgery to its students – all expenses paid.

Let me be clear (and I am aware that I will take flack from both sides on this issue), that I am in no way against anyone choosing (with a team of doctors) to have gender reassignment surgery. I am fully aware that gender identity disorder and body dysmorphic disorder are real afflictions and need to be treated. I am simply outraged at the idea that a major university (or rather now 38 of them) finds it necessary to raise student service fees in order to pay for the surgery for its students.

Again, I reiterate, I am not against this surgery, but just looking at the numbers, I don’t see why any university feels the need to provide this as a benefit to their students. There are only an average of between 100 and 500 gender reassignment surgeries performed in this country each year or .00016 percent of the population.

Why is gender reassignment surgery such a hot bed issue for these universities based on an ailment that affects such a small percentage of Americans?

Duke has stated that they will increase student’s fees by .3 percent in order to cover the cost of up to $50,000 for the surgery. So based on the published standard student fees at Duke, each student would see an increase of just $29.67 each year. Doesn’t seem like much, so I guess maybe I was wrong.

If every undergraduate is charged this additional fee, the University will collect an additional $432,914.97 each year. That is enough to fund up to 8 female to male gender reassignments.

Keep in mind, the additional fee being charged to all students is on top of the mandatory Health Fee they are required to pay in order to be able to use Student Health Services. Also it is important to note that all students enrolled in Duke must be insured – either by private insurance or by Duke’s Student Medical Insurance Plan.

Wait, so all students at Duke must be insured plus pay for the use of the health services? Why then, is this additional fee necessary if all students are insured? Oh, that’s right, because gender reassignment surgery is not covered by most private insurances – even when you’re still on your parent’s plan until age 26.

There are 37 other universities around the country that also fully pay for gender reassignment for their students. The total number of undergraduates enrolled in these schools, including Duke, is approximately 586,910. However based on population numbers and the national average number of these surgeries, only about 1 case of the up to 500 per year is likely to occur in one of these colleges.

Even if you took into account a larger percentage, is this really enough to justify such a charge to all students?

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Stephanie Bertorelli is a publicist and author living in Charlotte, NC. She's the mother of two girls that she's raised to say thank you to all officers and soldiers they meet and who also know that they better get the tissues ready for mom when the National Anthem plays. With a passion for sparkly shoes and vintage green dresses, she spends her free time (what free time?) writing, perfecting new recipes and trying out new wines.