In 2013, Dr. Rebecca Morgan of the Student Health Center made UT history by establishing the Gender Clinic for transgender and nonbinary students. Now, in 2020, Morgan is the recipient of the LGBTQ Advocate Award for her work on campus.
Presented by the Commission for LGBT People and the Chancellor’s Honors Program, the Advocate Award seeks to recognize a campus community member who has actively worked to create a safer, more diverse and more accepting campus climate for members of the LGBTQ+ community.
As the pioneer of the Gender Clinic, Morgan certainly fits this description.
Morgan, a physician certified in both family medicine and sports medicine, has worked at the Student Health Center for 22 years. In addition to aiding students’ medical needs, she also served on the Commission for LGBT People for several years, during which the need for gender services on campus was brought to her attention.
Upon identifying what could be a great benefit to the campus LGBTQ+ community, Morgan took it upon herself to establish the Gender Clinic.
“I kind of just fell into it. I like to say I became an accidental advocate because we just didn’t have other providers in the building who were comfortable and/or interested, so I decided I would just have to be the change that I wanted to see,” Morgan said.
Nowadays, Morgan is still the only doctor at the Student Health Center who provides hormones, and the Gender Clinic offers a number of services for transgender and nonbinary students. With insurance, students can receive free visits for hormone treatments, including testosterone injection, oral estrogen and hormone patches. Patch copays may be more expensive.
Through her work at the Gender Clinic, Morgan hopes to help students who are often the subject of biases, such as gender minorities, along their journey toward becoming their best selves, while simultaneously conveying to LGBTQ+ students that receiving medical care can be a positive experience.
“It is extremely rewarding. I get to meet all these amazing people, and I get to learn and understand a little more about what life is like walking in their shoes, which does help me everyday become a better advocate, but also I get to hopefully help them see that getting medical care doesn’t have to be an awful experience, which is what most of them have felt previously,” Morgan said.
When receiving the Advocate Award, Morgan was extremely grateful to see her and her colleagues’ work recognized.
“It was just so humbling. I was surprised. I just kind of do my little thing, I'm in the Health Center, I don't get across campus much because all of my work is in that one building, and it was an honor,” Morgan said. “It was so gratifying and so nice that my colleagues are recognizing what we're doing. When we had the virtual awards ceremony I had to say, I don't feel like this is mine alone.”
As she stated, Morgan credits several colleagues and entities for helping her with the Gender Clinic; Bonnie Johnson of the Pride Center, the Commission for LGBT People, Medical Director Dr. Spencer Gregg and Nursing Supervisor Stacie Dixon, RN, are a few who come to mind as particularly helpful.
Dixon worked alongside Morgan as her nurse in the Sports Medicine Clinic for three-and-a-half years and has worked at the Student Health Center for a decade. She explained that she is “ecstatic” about Morgan receiving the Advocate Award.
“I have the upmost respect for Dr. Morgan. She always has the patient's best interest in mind. My favorite part of working with her is seeing that she truly cares about her patients. She is not just in and out of a room and sending patients on their way,” Dixon said. “She takes her time, listens and cares for her patients. She makes an effort with each and every one of them to educate them on their health and answer their concerns.”
Dixon explained how Morgan’s work in the Gender Clinic in particular has benefited the campus community.
“I know Dr. Morgan's work in the Gender Clinic is life altering for many students. It gives them reassurance and the guidance to make changes. ... It is amazing to see patients find a place they feel comfortable and belong,” Dixon said. “Gender Clinic is certainly a place where they can express themselves and feel safe.“
Despite Morgan’s success, running the Gender Clinic has not always been easy. Over the years, Morgan and her team at the clinic have faced backlash and complaints over the services they offer. In response, the clinic has maintained a relatively low profile, often relying on the Pride Center and word of mouth to spread the word about their services.
Morgan explained her worries regarding the way this disapproval affects her patients.
“It’s always hurtful, and it’s hurtful because I just hate the discomfort that it brings to our students, but fortunately I have amazing support from our Medical Director at the clinic, and I’ve had amazing support from the Student Life administration and they really have handled a lot of that,” Morgan said. “I haven’t had to personally deal with any of it.”
Although the Gender Clinic’s grassroots marketing approach garners new patients every year, Morgan hopes that soon the clinic will be able to offer more details online about their services and reach more students in need without receiving unwanted attention from disapproving members of the community.
Typically, students who are interested in learning more about the Gender Clinic or receiving services from the clinic can contact Morgan via the Sports Medicine Clinic 865-974-5663. Students should keep in mind that the Sports Medicine Clinic and the Student Health Center are currently closed while the university remains closed due to the coronavirus outbreak.