Transgender people in B.C. will have access to gender-affirming lower-body surgeries within their home province as early as 2019.
On Friday, Health Minister Adrian Dix said the surgeries will be available in the Vancouver Coastal Health region next year.
Chest and breast surgeries, which have only been available in Vancouver and Victoria, will also be expanded to cities in the Lower Mainland, Kamloops, Kelowna and Prince George.
“For those seeking lower surgery, people were required to travel to Montreal or to the U.S., resulting in additional medical risks associated with travelling long distance after surgery and in receiving followup care if there were complications,” Dix said.
In B.C., an estimated 46,000 people identify as trans or gender diverse. About 100 people travel outside of the province each year for lower-body surgeries – a number that has increased steadily.
In-province surgeries reduce barriers, says educator
Gwen Haworth was one of the hundreds of British Columbians forced to travel to undergo lower-body surgery, after coming out as transgender in 2000.
"Offering services closer to home reduces additional stress, uncertainties and expenses for individuals and their families," said Gwen Howarth, a trans educator who underwent surgery in Montreal in 2004.
— Ashley Wadhwani (@ashwadhwani) November 16, 2018
“At the time, access to care was more limited and required jumping through additional hoops. Navigating through this was challenging, costly and time-consuming,” Haworth, who works with Trans Care BC, said at Friday’s news conference.
“This impacted my ability to focus on other areas of my life, and put a strain on my relationship with my family and friends and loved ones who no doubt had to listen to my endless venting about barriers to health care.”
Haworth travelled to Montreal for surgery in 2004. She was able to afford flights and accommodations while recovering, but said many in B.C. are unable to meet the high costs and have to travel alone.
“As anyone knows who has been through a significant surgery, it can be nerve-wracking and a vulnerable time.”
Haworth said the government’s move is a major step to reducing cost barriers and the stigmas faced by the trans community.