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BYU Suddenly Cancels Vocal Therapy — But Only for Trans Patients

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Imagine going to an on-campus establishment to receive a specific service, regularly, and that you continued to go there and receive the service. Until one day, they decide not to offer you that service, solely based on who you are.

That’s exactly what Brigham Young University did to at least three out transgender students who receive voice therapy at the BYU Speech and Language Clinic, starting last week, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.

The school is owned and remains operated under the direction of the Church of Jesus of Latter-Day Saints (LDS), which doesn’t sanction any LGBTQ identities and, as of this week, also allows BYU to become exempt from certain laws dealing with non-discrimination rules. The clinics told at least one patient that the school’s anti-trans beliefs were the determining factor to end their treatment.

“The program was so helpful and had been relieving a lot of my anxiety around who I am, so to just be kicked out like this is really painful,” an anonymous client, a trans woman, told the Tribune.

Coincidentally, BYU made the decision just a day before they were informed by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights that attorneys for the federal government has determined they don’t have the jurisdiction to call for BYU, a private church-funded institution, to adhere to Title IX because of religious exemptions in place.

In essence, the Mormon Church — and by extension, BYU — can deny any “health and insurance benefits and services” they choose because they can’t be forced by law to offer them to people that don’t fit into their beliefs.

The client who spoke to the Tribune is a trans student at the school. She sums up their experience at the school by stating, “It’s one thing after another. It’s destabilizing and makes you worry about what’s coming next. Losing this therapy is especially hard.”

A graduate student at the school’s clinic expressed that they fear they won’t receive accreditation, or the program’s will be revoked. A petition has already begun circulating and accepting signatures. It is expected to call for the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, which accredits BYU’s graduate speech programs, to take action. 

“BYU is putting its certified speech-language pathologists (CCC-SLPs) in an untenable position. These employees are now being directed to act in a manner contrary to their responsibilities under the ASHA Code of Ethics,” the Association has already said in a statement.

In the meantime, two other schools in Utah are already willing to take the patients on: the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and Rocky Mountain University in Provo.

“Although the Department of Communication Disorders is no longer providing gender-affirming voice and communication services, it has made the three students impacted by this change aware of other providers. BYU clinical personnel have offered to assist with the coordination between the students and these providers,” a school spokesperson said. No further comment or explanation was offered to the Tribune or publicly.

This is far from the first time BYU has ostracized LGBTQ students. The Mormon Church considers it disobedient to act on same-sex attraction, but it doesn’t have an official transgender policy (A 1995 declaration does declare that gender is considered an “eternal identity,” according to the Tribune.) In November 2015, the church announced a new policy barring the kids of same-sex couples from blessings and baptisms.

In 2018, as INTO reported at the time, Kris Irvin — a non-binary adult student at BYU who was transitioning and fundraising to have gender-affirming surgery while finishing their studies — was told that they could not continue at the school if they planned to have the surgery. Their story became national news, and after they fundraiser for surgery reached its goal, they chose to plan for the procedure anyway.

Irvin emailed a bishop in the faith, expecting strict reprimand and expulsion, but instead the faith chose not to punish them. Irvin chose to transfer out of BYU after, but they gave hope and pride to other LGBTQ Utahns and Mormons still at the school and beyond. Irvin passed away due to unspecified causes on January 23, 2022.

Just two weeks later, the school decided to cut off more students from services they receive from the school they and their families are paying to attend. That’s unsurprisingly not going over well, especially coupled with the news that the federal government is abandoning their investigation.

On the other hand, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) cheered BYU’s ability to ban services from LGBTQ people on Twitter.

Other, more decent people expressed their dismay, or also offered their support or services.

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