Behind the Scenes: Reporting on Gender Affirming Care at the Health Center

In April 2019, Mustang News reporter Michael Barros pitched a story to me. He told me that Universities of California (UCs) provided hormone replacement therapy and gender affirming care for students at campus health centers — but CSUs did not.

The story made our front page. Barros was told by a university spokesperson that gender affirming care was not considered a basic need under Executive Order 943. The academic year ended, and despite advocacy efforts from students and professors, we heard little about any new services or policy changes.

I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to inform people who may often feel overlooked about a service that can positively affect their quality of life.

Flash forward a few months: It turns out gender affirming care was considered a basic need the whole time. While interviewing for a different story, a university spokesperson told reporter Cassandra Garibay that the Health Center began offering gender affirming care at the beginning of Fall 2019. We decided to reach out to the Health Center to find out more.

We talked with a doctor, campus leaders, Queer Studies professors, and trans/non-binary students to find out what this care looks like, and why it’s important to offer on campus.

Environmental protection and management senior Autumn Ford takes hormone injections weekly for her transition. She has been at the forefront of advocacy for resources for LGBTQ+ students on campus. She told us her story of coming to terms with her identity as a trans woman, and she invited Ashley Ladin, Cassandra and I to film and photograph her Sunday injection routine.

“I was so honored that Autumn was comfortable enough to share her story with us and that we in turn got to share it with the community,” Ladin said.

Autumn helped me understand why these services are so important for students who want to transition. She explained how she experienced gender dysphoria — and how that is slowly dissipating as she takes her hormones.

Hormones are a basic need for her. And while some students may not need this service at all, it means the world to the students who do. It’s a matter of feeling comfortable in your own skin.
Autumn Ford shared her transition story with us. Emily Merten | Mustang News

What blew me away the most while reporting on this story was Autumn’s vulnerability. She willingly shared such a personal aspect of her life with us, knowing that it would be shared with the public. She doesn’t even get her hormones at the Health Center at the moment. She goes to a different provider for her care. But for the sake of other trans and nonbinary students who need gender affirming care on campus, she shared the struggles and successes of her transition.

“Although this story may only impact a small number of the community, that impact is so so important,” Garibay said. “I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to inform people who may often feel overlooked about a service that can positively affect their quality of life.”

If it weren’t for students in the LGBTQ+ community reporting, advocating, and shedding light on these issues, Ashley, Cassandra and I would have never known about this issue. They made news happen. I’m grateful for the students who share their stories, so we can share theirs.