Transgender and Gender Diverse Care
Penn State LIONS: Living In Our Natural Selves
Living In Our Natural Selves (LIONS) is a team of medical providers, mental health providers and case managers dedicated to supporting transgender and gender diverse students contemplating or pursuing gender affirming therapies. LIONS is a collaboration between Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) and University Health Services (UHS).
Any student who feels a mismatch between current gender identity and gender assigned at birth may benefit from LIONS. Whether you desire help exploring your gender identity, ready to start gender affirming hormones, or wish to pursue surgical treatments, LIONS can help.
We help students understand their goals and concerns with regard to gender affirmation. We follow the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) guidelines and the informed consent model. To provide holistic support, we recommend a team-based approach with:
- A mental health evaluation to address emotional concerns and provide support around gender exploration and/or challenges unique to transitioning.
- A case manager that helps to get past medical records, coordinating with any outside providers, and understanding insurance coverage. In some situations, we may suggest a psychiatry evaluation.
- A medical provider for an evaluation of your health status, support and assistance with medications, contraception, gender identification cards, fertility preservation options and potential prescription of gender affirming hormones
Your primary team members communicate regularly regarding ongoing questions and concerns. This communication may be via phone, secure message or in person at team meetings. The whole LIONS team meets on a routine basis to discuss students’ treatment plans and offer additional suggestions for how we can best support you.
Mental Health Evaluation
At CAPS, evaluation starts with a 15-minute phone call. Next, you meet with a mental health professional for a 50-minute initial consultation to better understand you, your current gender concerns, and any other mental health concerns you may have. Together we will develop a treatment plan. This may involve short-term counseling at CAPS or referral to community providers for ongoing therapy. If needed, you can meet with a case manager at CAPS or UHS to explore which providers fit your needs and health insurance. Your team members at UHS and CAPS will involve your community-based therapist in treatment planning and care coordination.
Students work with a medical provider to develop a treatment plan based on the individual’s goals of treatment and any medical and mental health care needs. The goal of the initial medical evaluation is to understand your past medical history and your current health status so we can assess and discuss the risks and benefits of gender affirming hormone therapy. At a typical medical evaluation, a nurse will check your blood pressure, heart rate, and weight. The doctor will ask questions about your medical history, your health habits, and any physical symptoms you are having. The doctor may perform a physical exam. You may be asked to get bloodwork. Your provider will discuss the informed consent process, your gender identity development history, review effects, and possible risk factors for hormone therapy prior to writing a prescription. This process normally requires a second visit. If a student begins taking gender affirming hormones, medical visits are generally every few months to review changes, side effects and monitor hormones levels and other labs. Once hormone levels are stable, bloodwork and medical visits are less frequent.
We do not require a letter from a therapist before starting gender affirming hormones, however, a student must be able to demonstrate an understanding of both the risks and benefits of hormone therapy and receive a recommendation from someone on our team.
If and when we decide to move forward is dependent upon a student-specific situation and needs.
There are no extra fees for the team-based, coordinated care provided by LIONS. The individual care you receive from your treatment team members may have associated fees:
- Most CAPS services are provided free to full-time students. Fees are charged for certain services (e.g. psychiatry) and for individual therapy after the 6th visit.
- UHS office visit fees vary depending on the medical issues addressed. There are additional charges for some procedures and all ancillary services, such as laboratory tests and pharmacy. Your insurance company may cover these charges. Please check with your insurance company to determine your coverage! If you have trouble paying your bill our Finance Office may be able to assist you.
- Community mental health providers accept a range of fees and insurance plans.
- If you do not have insurance, our case managers can help you explore your options.
Your privacy is important to us. Information shared with your LIONS treatment team is held in the strictest confidence consistent with professional and ethical standards, and state and federal law. We will not release information without signed consent except in rare instances where sharing is required by law, such as to save a human life, to report child abuse or to comply with a court order.
To start, call 863-0774 or go online to myUHS to schedule an appointment with the case manager.
- Respect and compassion regarding your care
- Dedication and knowledge by the professionals serving you
- Communication and collaboration with you and among your team members
- Confidentiality and privacy concerning your treatment