Berkeley may pay for sex-change surgeries

Berkeley Old City Hall. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

City employees who want to get sex-change surgery may soon get funds for the operation from their employer.

The City Council will consider tonight setting aside $20,000 a year to assist those who want to change their genders. The money will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.

In order to be eligible for the funds, city employees will have had to “successfully lived and worked within the desired gender role full time for at least 12 months (real life experience) without returning to the original gender,” according to the resolution. They also will be required to have  worked for the city for a year, gone through a year of hormone treatments, and be active participants in a gender identity treatment program.

Neither of Berkeley’s two health plans, Kaiser and Health Net, currently pay for sex reassignment surgery. Creating a fund will actually be cheaper than adding the benefit, according to a report submitted by Phil Kamlarz, the city manager.

The city of San Francisco has helped pay for sex reassignment surgery for 10 years. The operation can cost as much as $50,000.

The vote on the added benefit will come immediately after a meeting where the City Council will grapple with its unfunded pension liabilities, which City Auditor Ann-Marie Hogan estimates will reach more than $250 million in the next decade.

Berkeley has about 1,500 employees, but only a few are expected to be interested in sex-reassignment surgery.

Frances Dinkelspiel is co-founder and executive editor of Berkeleyside. Email: