Salt Lake City employees and their eligible dependents can seek gender-affirming surgery through their health care plans, Mayor Erin Mendenhall announced on Friday.
“Salt Lake City believes that trans health care is a right,” said City Council member Darin Mano in a video announcement posted on Mendenhall’s Twitter page.
City employees have been able to get hormone replacement treatment through their health plan since 2015. Mendenhall said on Twitter that gender-affirming care and support are “lifesaving.”
Research supports that statement. A study from Harvard Medical School analyzed the results of a survey of 27,715 transgender people and found that access to gender-affirming surgery was associated with lower psychological distress and lower rates of suicidal ideation. People with access to gender-affirming surgery also had lower smoking rates, according to the study.
Transgender Education Advocates of Utah said on Twitter that the group is thrilled to see Salt Lake City working to reduce barriers to health care and employment for transgender people.
TEA co-chair Becca Green said the announcement is exciting both because of the direct impact it will have on transgender city employees, and also because of the message of inclusion that it sends.
“Trans people constantly hear they aren’t welcome and they don’t belong,” she said in a statement. “And often when people say they are welcome, that doesn’t always come with tangible support. But this is more than just saying I see you, it’s taking direct action to make our lives easier.”
The decision was also applauded by Equality Utah executive director Troy Williams.
“Mayor Mendenhall and the Salt Lake City Council have time and again demonstrated unwavering love and support to the LGBTQ community,” said Williams in a statement. “They are sending a powerful message to their transgender employees that they are loved and accepted as their full, authentic selves.”
Salt Lake City’s announcement comes a month after the Utah Supreme Court ruled that transgender Utahns can legally list the sex they identify with on their driver’s licenses.