Changing Times

A plan to at least partially cover sexual reassignment surgery for city employees needs work, but is a good start.

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On Tuesday night, the Berkeley City Council agreed to vote on Feb. 15 on whether to implement a policy that would create a fund of $20,000 which would be dedicated to paying for sexual reassignment surgery for city employees.

The current plan is for the city to pay out the funds on a first-come, first-served basis, providing that the employee has worked for the city for at least a year and has undergone hormone therapy. Unclaimed money does not roll over - the fund is set at $20,000 per year.

While we believe the city of Berkeley's plan is a step in the right direction, we welcome the news that the city is taking extra time to consider how best to implement it. We would like to know more details about how the money will be divided - with surgeries costing from $7,000 to $50,000, and several employees reportedly showing interest, we believe there are more fair ways to allocate the funds that take factors such as seniority into consideration.

We are also concerned with the proposed method of disbursement. Currently, the city's plan calls for qualifying employees to collect the money pre-procedure, but we want to make sure the money is used for the surgery. Finally, the city must be sure to not prioritize one type of reassignment over another - a policy to foster inclusiveness shouldn't fall short in its implementation.

This is a difficult topic for everyone, as many people cannot identify with the psychological and emotional toll that a transgender person can face. However, we can appreciate the goal of providing city employees with a service they would have access to if they worked for the city of San Francisco or at a number of large private employers.

Sexual reassignment surgery is not merely a cosmetic procedure - it is something without which several people would live significantly worse lives. It makes little sense to us to effectively penalize individuals who choose to dedicate themselves to public service by denying them an opportunity that we hold as an essential right.

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