Gender reassignment funding raises questions

Amanda Jess
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HALIFAX – Although Jesiah MacDonald said the province’s move to start funding gender reassignment surgery starting April 1 was a step in the right direction, it was simply that – only a step. 

The Pictou County transgendered man was left with many questions and concerns regarding the commitment from the province.

“It’s more of a Band-Aid I suppose,” he said.

The Nova Scotia government announced Tuesday that the funding for gender reassignment surgery would begin immediately, after committing to it last spring.

A release states that they will fund eight types of surgeries, and those wishing to start the process can speak with their family doctors before developing a transition plan.

"Transgender Nova Scotians face unique challenges in the health-care

system, as they do in life," said Health and Wellness Minister Leo Glavine in the release. "I hope this move will help those for whom sex reassignment surgery is an important part of their transition."

In a question and answer section on the department’s website, they say they’ll specifically be funding removal of internal and external organs associated with the anatomical sex, reconstruction of external characteristics and procedures to enhance appearance including: mastectomies, oophorectomies, hysterectomies, penectomies, orchiectomies, phalloplasties, metoidplasties, and vaginoplasties.  

Three of those will require out-of-province travel.

There are still many details missing, MacDonald said.

“Ideally, I’d like to see them commit to covering mastectomies with chest contouring.”

Those are the procedures that MacDonald has looked into for himself before the announcement at a private plastic surgery clinic in Halifax. It would cost him approximately $12,000, he said.

Since hearing the news, he has tried to find out whether they’ll be funding chest contouring.

This was a detail Gerard Veldhoven, a long-time activist for LGBT rights, wanted to know more about as well.

Veldhoven was wondering about the qualifications of doctors, whether they’ll be able to give transgendered individuals the support they need.

“These are hurdles that have to be overcome,” he said, adding that support groups will also need to be in place.

He said the community will need to be supportive as well.

“We must remember that physically and mentally we must be at peace. Reassignment surgeries will accomplish that and, again, I call on the community at large to support this completely,” Veldhoven said.

He compares the current state of rights for the transgender community to what the gay community was facing 30 or 40 years ago.

“That’s how much we have to accomplish yet.”

He noted that this was a huge feat for them.

MacDonald has tried to talk to his doctor about it, who knew nothing beyond the press release, he said, including anything about the criteria that will be used.

“The WPATH (World Professional Association for Transgender Health) assessment involves a comprehensive psychiatric assessment and prolonged medical management before considering surgery as an option,” the Q&A page reads. “When the patient has received a positive recommendation from their physician, they will work with a medical team to develop a surgical plan.”

The department said the surgeries won’t be able to happen immediately. The process will require a number of steps.

They’re estimating between four and eight patients annually will request funding, and costs would depend on which surgeries they’ll require.

They plan to monitor the demand and distribution of funding before determining whether there will be a need to train more doctors to help patients with the transition.

MacDonald hopes to see more education for physicians.

He said the announcement put Nova Scotia on par with other provinces, and the funding in itself is a great thing.

A new non-profit group he’s chairing, Trans Justice, will be following the government’s next step.

“It’s something we’re going to keep a close eye on.”

On Twitter: @NGNewsAmanda 

Organizations: World Professional Association for Transgender Health

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Pictou County, Halifax

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Recent comments

  • Ash
    April 03, 2014 - 15:05

    So happy to hear a step has been made in the right direction! Also wonderful to see New Glasgow News publishing articles on trans issues.