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Harvard undergraduates lauded the growing traction of the Social Transition Fund — a collaboration between Harvard College Queer Students and Allies, the Office of BGLTQ Student Life, and the Harvard Undergraduate Association — as a financial resource to help students purchase gender-affirming care and products.
The program is intended for low-income transgender and gender non-conforming students who face financial barriers during the transition process. The application consists of a survey with questions about first-generation, low-income status, what the request is for, and the requested amount of financial support. Students use the fund to purchase gender-affirming care such as binders, packers, makeup, and clothing.
Brit G. Shrader ’24, an intern at the BGLTQ office, introduced plans for the Social Transition Fund at an HUA meeting last October.
“The Social Transition Fund was basically born out of a need of a student a couple of years ago who was struggling a lot with gender dysphoria, but couldn’t afford to get new clothes — both because of financial situations and their family,” said Shrader.
Benjy Wall-Feng ’25, a Crimson magazine editor and the other intern working on the Social Transition Fund at the BGLTQ office, said that the program aims to make the process of requesting funds as easy as possible.
“Historically, access to gender-affirming care has been locked from trans people,” they said.
Wall-Feng added that “levels and layers of bureaucracy” make it particularly different for people to secure necessary resources.
While dozens of students have requested support from the fund, its establishment has not been without controversy. Atlas Sanogo ’24, the co-president of the QSA, said the conservative campus publication the Salient has criticized the Social Transition Fund for its alleged preferential treatment of trans students.
“One point that repeatedly comes back to mind is just the fact that the trans student body as a whole generally is not as well-resourced as the majority,” Sanogo said.
They added that they hope the program can help alleviate some of the financial burdens of the transition process.
The Salient did not respond to a request for comment.
Receipts are required to ensure the integrity and accuracy of the fund and its future. The applications are reviewed every weekend and the funds are distributed.
Confidentiality is also an integral part of the program. Alana L. Young ’24, a Crimson arts editor and one of the co-presidents of the QSA, said payment methods like Venmo are used to accommodate those who may prefer to keep their transition private.
Shrader said the program is anonymous and no one has access to information regarding requests or funds other than the program’s top leadership.
“We respect students’ privacy so we don’t publicize who participates in the social transition fund,” said Travis Allen Johnson ’24, the co-president of the HUA.
During the 2021-22 academic year, more than $10,000 was requested and the fund was able to distribute a total of $6,000 to students, according to Johnson. Hana Rehman ’25, a Crimson blog co-chair and the HUA’s well-being officer said requests range from $20 to “as much as possible.”
This semester, around 100 students have applied to the fund so far, according to Shrader.
“I think with every program, it’s always a goal to increase awareness,” Johnson said, adding that he hopes the program can help students feel welcomed and comfortable in the Harvard community.
Some supporters and administrators of the fund said they hope to see expanded financial support for the resource in the months and years to come.
“The need that students have for this is far greater than what we can give to them,” Wall-Feng said.
—Staff writer Hana Rostami can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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