Fund will be the first of its kind in western Canada
By Naomi Ambrose, Staff Writer
Members of British Columbia’s transgender community needing gender-affirming surgery will soon have their options expanded.
A November 16 press release from the BC government revealed that a public fund will soon be available for British Columbians who want to have gender-affirming surgeries at a lower cost.
Adrian Dix, Minister of Health, said in the press release that people have been wanting this for a long time.
“The trans community has advocated over a number of years for improved access to care, including access to complex lower surgeries within BC,” said Dix.
Dix further added that British Columbians who wanted to have lower surgery had to travel outside of the province, which put them at risk.
“People were required to travel to Montreal or to the US, resulting in additional medical risks associated with travelling long distance after surgery and in receiving follow-up care if there were complications,” said Dix.
Lorraine Grieves, director of Trans Care BC, also shared her insights about the rationale for the fund in the press release.
“With increased access to physicians, surgeons, and other medical experts who are knowledgeable about health care for trans people, we have seen an increase in demand for gender-affirming surgeries,” she said. “When we were planning the Trans Care BC program, we heard from trans communities that training more surgeons and establishing a surgical program for lower surgeries in BC was crucial to improving access to this care.”
The public fund, along with the low-cost surgeries, also represent a historic achievement for BC. “We are proud to be the first province in western Canada to provide these surgeries,” said Dix.
The release also included details about when the surgeries will begin as well as the types of surgeries that will be supported. From 2019, Vancouver Coastal Health will offer reconstructive gender-affirming lower surgeries. The fund will also cover gender-affirming chest and breast surgeries. Throughout the province, 14 surgeons will offer the surgeries in Burnaby, Kamloops, Kelowna, Port Moody, Prince George, Vancouver, and Victoria.
According to the press release, next year the number of chest and breast surgeries in BC is expected to be above 200. The number of people receiving these gender-affirming surgeries per year has more than tripled between 2014 and 2018—in 2014 only 56 people underwent this type of surgery, but it has increased to 178 this year.
In BC, there are approximately 46,000 people who identify as trans or gender diverse, and current estimates state that one percent of the general population identify as transgender. As stigma against trans people is neutralized and education on trans issues becomes more prevalent, however, there’s a chance these numbers could rise.