The University of Pennsylvania’s Undergraduate Assembly will call on the school’s insurance provider to offer free “chest binders” for female students, elastic bands that help compress and constrict breasts so that the wearer can appear to be male.
The UA “plans to launch a new initiative pushing Penn’s health insurance provider to cover the cost of chest binders for transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming students by fall 2020,” The Daily Pennsylvanian reports.
Chest binders are popular among “transgender men” and “transmasculine” individuals, who were born female but who claim to identify as men or who opt to “present” as “masculine,” respectively. Purpose-built binders are traditionally wide bands of elastic material that can stretch tightly around the wearer’s chest, flattening the breasts and making the wearer’s body appear closer to that of a man’s.
The student government will petition the university’s Student Health Insurance Advisory Board when it meets in the spring to determine benefits for next year, The Daily reports.
From the story:
[UA Representative Cam] Duran said the initiative was inspired by a program offered at Cornell University in which students enrolled in a Cornell student health plan or who pay the Student Health Fee can receive up to two chest binders each semester with no copayment. Duran said that Penn should be able to provide chest binders without placing a financial burden on students to help improve transgender students’ mental health and gender affirmation.
Duran said Penn’s insurance provider, Aetna Student Health, covers gender affirming services such as surgical and hormone replacement therapy and counseling treatment but does not cover chest binders. Similar to Aetna, Student Health Services does not provide chest binders.
Erin Cross, the director of the school’s LGBT Center, told The Daily that chest binders are a “medical necessity” for the students who desire them. A study of the medical effects of chest binding indicate that it can cause pain, shortness of breath, and in numerous cases cracked ribs.