University of British Columbia (UBC) students have voted to increase the cost of their health plan so that it covers “gender-affirming care” expenses for transgender individuals.

The referendum came after demands from trans activists, who claimed there was “a crisis of inequitable healthcare coverage” that systematically and intersectionally marginalized transgender students.

Activists belonging to the UBC Trans Coalition also said before the vote that “anything short of active support” would be “a conscious choice to ignore the urgent needs of the trans community.”

65.5% of students voted to increase the cost of the health plan specifically to cover “gender-affirming care.” A majority of students also voted in favour of a separate general monetary increase to the plan offered by UBC’s student union.

The passing of the two referendum items mean the union’s $277.50 Health & Dental fee will be increased by $60.50. The increase includes a new mandatory $8 charge dedicated for “gender-affirming care” coverage.

As reported by UBC’s student paper, The Ubyssey, trans activists took issue with the increase to cover “gender-affirming care” being made into its own referendum question. One activist claimed a specific vote on the matter would put transgender students at risk of violence.

“The way to work with us is to believe us when we say that having a trans-specific (referendum) question… puts us at risk and singles us out to trans violence and all sorts of attacks,” said a member of the UBC Trans Coalition during a student union meeting.

Another trans activist said that “it’s very important to recognize that… there is a deep assumption that Trans people are fundamentally different than cis people… which to me is really upsetting,” 

“Gender Affirming Care” is defined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as a “supportive form of healthcare” consisting of an “array of services that may include medical, surgical, mental health, and non-medical services for transgender and nonbinary people.”

It should be noted many transgender procedures are already covered by the B.C. government, as reported by Global News. 

Chest construction and reduction, orchiectomy, hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy, vaginoplasty, vulvoplasty, clitoral release, metoidioplasty and phalloplasty are all covered by British Columbia. The province also pays for travel, out-of-province surgical aftercare, psychiatry services, and vocal feminization via the free Changing Keys program.

Meanwhile, UBC’s Equity and Inclusion office most hormone therapies are covered by the union’s current health plan – including testosterone, estrogen and blockers. 

Cosmetic procedures like Adam’s apple reduction, nose feminization, and facelifts, as well as liposuction or lipofilling, voice surgery and hair reconstruction or restoration are not covered.

True North asked the UBC student union if the health plan would cover cosmetic procedures as part of “gender-affirming care”, but they did not respond in time for publication. The UBC Trans Coalition also did not respond to a request for comment. 

A recent UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute study found that the number of young people who identify as transgender has doubled in five years. 

2021 Data from Statistics Canada also shows a significantly higher rate of transgenderism in Gen  Z, compared to other generations. 

0.79% of Gen Z said they were trans or “non-binary”; compared to 0.51% of millennials, 0.19% of Generation X, 0.15% of baby boomers and 0.12% of the Interwar and Greatest Generations.