Senior Vice Provost for Student Life and Dean of Students John T. Kirkpatrick sent an email on Monday, Nov. 14 informing the UNH student body of a reinstallation of previously cancelled counseling services for transgender students undergoing hormone treatment.
The service requires students undergoing such treatment to receive mental health counseling and will be reinstalled on Dec. 9 after being suspended since the summer.
This email led to slight confusion within the UNH community due to the lack of knowledge regarding counseling services for the trans community and the vague nature of the email.
According to Kirkpatrick, UNH Health Services offers hormone treatment for students transitioning. Due to the strong nature of the hormones, the university requires that student transitioning take part in mental health counseling services to provide the safest treatment possible.
“When a student who is transitioning wants to get hormone treatment…it’s recommended that you have a mental health assessment to assure the M.D. that you’re of the proper state of mind,” Kirkpatrick said. “These are pretty significant hormones, those drugs are pretty powerful.”
According to Kirkpatrick, there is no national or state mandated licensure to partake in this practice as long as the counselor is a licensed clinical psychologist. However, the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) has created a certification that “publishes the Standards of Care and Ethical Guidelines, which articulate a professional consensus about the psychiatric, psychological, medical and surgical management of gender identity disorders, and helps professionals understand the parameters within which they may offer assistance to those with these conditions,” according to the website.
“[WPATH is] a standard setter for the trans community in terms of its healthcare,” Kirkpatrick said. “When I took over and Dr. [David] Cross retired after 40 years as director of the center, I wanted to be sure that that assessment that we were offering in the counseling center was best practice. I want to assure all students here at UNH, no matter what identity or population group they come from, that I want to deliver to them the best clinical care, mental healthcare and medical healthcare we can give.”
Because of the lack of training at the counseling center, Kirkpatrick suspended the program and offered students free transportation through the university to Boston in order to continue these mental health services at a certified professional’s office.
Though Kirkpatrick insists his intentions were good, he did admit to understanding why the community was upset with his decision to suspend these services.
“My view is it was more symbolic…in the wake of the election I think people who are feeling like ‘the other’ are feeling marginalized; they worry about their future,” Kirkpatrick said about why students may be offended. “So I said this was only temporary suspension, but I fully understand why members of the university student community were concerned.”
In wake of this controversy, Student Senator Douglas Marino spoke of the issue and said he decided that this was just an example of poor communication.
“It was upsetting that it happened and that there was a lack of communication through the student body, but the dean had acknowledged that,” Marino said.
Marino also said that the Student Senate is now working on providing students more knowledge on what is and isn’t covered under the student insurance plan, as it was unclear to whether or not this treatment was covered beforehand.
Marino also stated that this issue didn’t come into light until senior biomedical science major and Trans UNH Vice President Charlie Durkin attended a meeting for the President’s Commission on the Status of LGBTQ+ People.
“Someone had asked if the counseling center could write letters for transition related hormones and this was when it was first announced that the service was suspended,” Durkin said, “[The suspension] was never actually announced by Dean Kirkpatrick to any students or anyone outside the counseling center.”
Durkin also said he was devastated by this news and felt “completely blindsided.”
“I was also so upset because I had gotten my letter for testosterone written by one of the counselors last year and it honestly saved my life,” Durkin said. “I just couldn’t imagine someone being in my position and not having this service available to them on campus.”
Durkin also said he is a little disappointed in Kirkpatrick’s decision to keep the service suspended, and his decision to only send one counselor into the training due to the limited availability of the service after the training is over.
However, Durkin said he does believe that Kirkpatrick’s intentions were not malicious. “I do believe that Dean Kirkpatrick wants to help, but he just thinks he knows best and hasn’t been really hearing us when we talk to him,” Durkin said. “I was also happy that we could convince him to send out a campus wide email to all the students to at least address this issue and he’s agreed to also have monthly meetings with other students and I so we can continue to try to better these services.”