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Banners hang outside of Student Health and Counseling. Photo courtesy of UNM SHAC.

Trans and non-binary students report mixed experiences with SHAC


Over the past two years, several trans and non-binary University of New Mexico students have reported mistreatment and lack of access to hormone therapy at Student Health and Counseling, according to Juniper Reimagined’s outreach coordinator, Ophelia Aragon. This has resulted in a delay of medically necessary gender-affirming care.

Juniper Reimagined is a Queer and trans student alliance at UNM amongst several LGBTQ student organizations on campus. Five student members of Juniper Reimagined have said they had a poor experience with SHAC, including trans and non-binary individuals who said they have dealt with being misgendered, Aragon said.

SHAC’s website says that it follows the World Professional Association for Transgender Health recommended standards of care to ensure students receive care in an environment that feels safe, welcoming and affirming.

Juniper Reimagined Vice President Mara Cox said she noticed a lack of education on LGBTQ issues amongst SHAC staff members. Cox made an appointment to receive gender-affirming care in February 2022; five months later was when she received her hormone replacement therapy.

James Wilterding – a practitioner at SHAC who works with patients seeking gender affirming care – said they will typically have at least two visits with a patient during the intake process to conduct a gender identity history interview to make sure their experiences are consistent with gender dysphoria.

“We do an interview with them and (they) talk to us about what's going on … (We) talk about their story and how they've come to understand that they might be wanting to seek a form of gender affirming care,” Wilterding said.

When seeking treatment in February, Cox said to receive gender-affirming care at SHAC, she was asked questions about feelings of dysphoria to get treatment. Tentative about her dysphoria, Cox said that this delayed her access to help.

“I went in to learn a little bit more about the care that I would go through, but they didn’t really elaborate on that all too much because I didn’t get past that first step,” Cox said.

Juniper Reimagined President August Fowler is a fourth-year student at UNM who has had good experiences, until a change in provider led to negative encounters. He has been going to SHAC for HRT for the past year, which is when he first started hormones.

“(The provider) was always great about not misgendering anyone, not deadnaming anyone,” he said.

During the transition to a new provider, Fowler sought a reproductive health care procedure at SHAC. He said he felt uncomfortable after several SHAC staff members misgendered him.

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“The whole procedure, (the provider) just felt pretty dismissive and not super considerate,” Fowler said.

Wilterding said that students can add their preferred pronouns in the health history questionnaire located in the student health portal. Cox said that despite a negative experience, SHAC is capable of providing good care as it has done so for her and other students.

“For the most part, I think it’s just educating the current gender provider as much as possible, and amending any issues that might have come up in the past,” Cox said. “I think the biggest thing that SHAC could do is encourage more modern conceptualization of what gender and sexuality are so that there is that broader view.”

Milan Ortiz-Ruiz is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at

Lauren Lifke  is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at

Lauren Lifke

 Lauren Lifke is the managing editor for the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at or on Twitter @lauren_lifke 

Milan Ortiz-Ruiz

 Milan Ortiz-Ruiz is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached on Twitter @ milanortiz_or 

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