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OPINION: Employers, Like Starbucks, Covering Trans Healthcare Procedures Helps to Improve the Quality of Life of Transgender Employees

Starbucks recently announced they would be extending their healthcare plan for its transgender employees. The benefics package would now include facial feminization surgery, breast augmentation or reduction, and hair transplants. This is a major win or Starbucks’ employees, but also for the brand. It shows a passion and care for helping provide specific healthcare that matters most to a number of the company’s employees.

Dr. Vartan Mardirossian, board certified facial plastic surgeon and world-renowned facial feminization surgeon in Jupiter, FL, has shared his thoughts with QWEERIST on the news as well as how the procedures can have a benefit on the well-being for transgender employees.

Facial feminization surgery (FFS) is a conglomerate of rejuvenation and facial contouring procedures that make a face look more feminine. Several recent studies have shown that receiving facial feminization surgery increases the self-confidence of transgender women. This is especially important if we consider that the risk of suicide is about 30 times higher in transgender patients; 40% of transgender persons have attempted or thought of suicide at least once.

In this sense, the recent decision of Starbucks to cover FFS procedures is an important one in the direction of improving the health and quality of life of their transgender employees. I  have been performing facial feminization in Boston, MA since 2007 and then in Jupiter, FL since 2013.

In my experience, the most feminizing procedures are the forehead and mandible contouring, feminization rhinoplasty, cheek contouring, voice feminization and laryngeal cartilage reshaping. Downtime from these procedures varies but is mostly 2-3 weeks long. The patient can often go back to work 10-14 days after the surgery.

The transition process is a complex one, and every patient I have met has their own dynamics of transition. It is a very unique process with no general rules. I have seen many that transition within a reasonable amount of time – say six months to 1 year. The ones that transition slowly or “never make it” are the ones that have “social” hinders to the transition – family members; wife, children, parents acceptance, relationships and, last but not least, their work environment.

Recognizing and covering the cost of extensive and involved procedures will for sure help those employees who need it, but it has to go hand-in-hand with moral support from corporate but also work environment level. Family support, but also support at the workplace, has been some of the most healing factors I have noticed with my most successful patients.

FFS is hard work, but the satisfaction and the gratitude of my patients goes well and beyond all the sacrifices and long hours of work and support required to make it work.

Recently a patient of mine wrote: “Before saying that you are an extraordinary surgeon, I want to tell you that you are an extraordinary human being…”. It is the biggest compliment I could get.


Written by Dr. Vartan Mardirossian

Dr. Vartan Mardirossian is an Assistant Professor of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and Otolaryngology at the Florida Atlantic University and a consultant of Facial plastic and Head and Neck Surgery at Jupiter Medical Center. He is double Board-certified in both Facial Plastic surgery and Head and Neck Surgery and has authored many studies on pivotal topics within the realm of Facial plastic surgery. You can find out more about him on his website here.

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