Mercedes Allen

Alberta Delists Gender Reassignment Surgery Funding

Filed By Mercedes Allen | April 08, 2009 10:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Alberta, Canada, medical care, public health, srs, surgery, transgender, transsexual

This is a quick note for Canadian readers and those interested on the way of things for transfolk up here.

On April 7th, 2009, the Province of Alberta has delisted funding for GRS surgery. I'm awaiting confirmation as to whether this affects people in the queue, and how much of our medical process is affected. A number of us will be narrowing down our best options and seeking advice.

For people affected by this change, keep in mind that the American Medical Association restated the necessity of GRS this past fall, and the Ontario Human Rights Commission ordered funding reinstated in that Province last spring. There is reason to keep hope.

I'm looking for information about Albertans who are in the queue for 2009-2010 (this year), and/or who expect that they likely would receive funding for surgery in this or the following year.

Don't lose hope. There is reason to hold on.

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EmilyGrrl | April 8, 2009 5:14 PM

This is especially a blow to Canadian trans men, as Alberta is the only province that covers SRS for men. I'm really upset, I know of friends who moved or were planning to move to Alberta (and brave the culture of homo/transphobia there) so they could get their surgeries (who wouldn't have been able to afford it otherwise).

Ontario also covers guys' surgeries now, but it's gated by CAMH

This is very bad. And the claim of how much the government will save is implausibly high. And even if it really were $700,000 a year, that's a drop in the health care bucket.

We used to see trans people move here to Vancouver from Ontario. I imagine if this delisting stand, we'll see more folks from Alberta here. I just hope our coverage doesn't change.

Someone worked it out (I haven't checked the math -- no time): $700,000 a year translates to $0.19 per person.

The tragic thing is that we've had people coming here from other Provinces for years, because our process was the most streamlined and one of the few not gated by CAMH / Clarke and their peers. So we have a high population who are now stuck in transition.

I just had the word for someone in Edmonton booked for surgery later this year - actually in a month or two.

No funding effective immediately, anyone in the queue is out of luck.

It's going to cost them a lot more in legal fees, as there's precedent from the Ontario decision that you just can't do this kind of thing to people. But that will take years.

There is some misinformation going around on that. We're getting the scenario you mention when we talk directly to Alberta Health about our status in the queue, and the press is getting different information (that everyone whose paperwork went in before March 31 is good to go) from AH communications. It's over 24 hours, and I can't answer that question yet.

I'm actually surprised to find out that each canadian province gets to decide something like this. Do you think it would be easier if these decisions were made nationally?

While the feds tend to govern our country a bit more than in the US (where much is left up to the individual states), this is sort of a reversal. It's been the policy of the federal government to only state some basic requirements and leave the rest to the Provinces' discretion.

But you've just given me an idea on strategy, thank you.

Yet another rollback for transsexual women..

So tell me again .. what exactly 10+ years of transgender activism has achieved for actual transsexuals?

How has it improved their lives?

Please .. make a list. I asked the same of Monica Helms .. darned if she could produce even one positive note.

I wish you could see what I'm seeing right now.

There is a bigger fight beyond the legal and political, to bring awareness and through it, understanding. I know that "awareness" is a scary word, but for those of us who remember how coming out to family = getting disowned, and now see parents come to us asking how they can support their kids, see the swell of the ranks of allies who, yes, sometimes don't get it and say something offensive without thinking, are willing to pour energy into anything that can be seen to help -- such as reinstatement of health insurance funding... to me that answers the question. I can't quantify it with numbers. But I see it.

In Michelle Hogan, Martine Stonehouse, A.B. and Andy McDonald v. Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Ontario as represented by the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care (Tribunal Decision), the Ontario Human Rights Commission in 2006 did NOT order the Ontario Government to refund SRS. On the contrary, of the four transsexual complainants, only the three that were already in the queue, but not where the government thought appropriate, had their surgeries funded. the Tribunal finessed the point at which funding was cut off. The fourth transsexual person, who was not in the queue, did not have his (I believe he was a female to male transsexual) funded. Of the four tribunal members, only one found that the government's action was discriminatory to transsexual people not in the queue. A similar decision was made by the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal in the past year. I realize hope is important, but I'm not convinced this is the anything more than a shaky reed to place it on. The Trans Health Lobby Group, based in Toronto, claimed sole credit for refunding--I believe others also added pressure. But I've found no evidence the Ontario Human Rights Commission played a significant role--other than causing disappointment. I know I was.

Surprisingly, it looks like, at this early moment, the campaign to refund SRS in Alberta will be using the word "transsexual," not "transgender." I repeat, this is a surprise to me--though a recognition that surgery remains, and is understood in the general public mind a matter of transsexual people, not transgender people.

I quite understand the argument I have heard on American email lists, and elsewhere: 1) the need for a large coalition, 2) transsexual people are a very small minority and 3) no one, except, maybe bloggers, understands the difference.

Quite frankly, I think the movement to impose a universal "transgender" identity--and to refer to "transgender surgery"--simply confuses what needn't be, and isn't. To suggest that drag queens, in general, seek surgery, does not make sense to most people, certainly those who don't read Bilerico.

This is not to say there aren't some people, who may be identified as drag queens, who do want surgery.

I do, however, believe the urge to homogenize transsexual and transgender people in the name of public understanding and large political coalitions, in the current imposed identity manner, is 1) not any form of coalition I understand, where all partners are equally recognized and 2) counterproductive, if the reports, some posted to Bilerico, are true: that the federal hate crimes legislation, the Mathew Shepherd bill I believe its called, has language that recognizes "transgender people" (narrowly defined) but not "transsexual/transitioning people"--there is no groundswell against this exclusion.

Apparently not even a ripple.

Be careful what you ask for--you just might not be happy when you get it.

Jessica, the reports here and elsewhere that the language in the federal hate crimes bill (H.R. 1913) will cover "transgender" people, but not "transsexuals," are untrue and based on a misinterpretation of a few cases under Title VII (the federal employment nondiscrimination statute). H.R. 1913 defines "gender identity" (the term used in the operative provisions of the bill) as "actual or perceived gender-related characteristics." A transsexuals need to transform her/his body to conform to her/his internal gender identity is clearly "related" to gender, just as the configuration of her/his genitals (pre- or post-op) is related to gender. For some people, the shape of a person's genitalia is the only factor defining her/his gender. But even for those of us who know better, genitalia and secondary sex characteristics such as breasts and facial hair are still "related" to gender. Although the definition of "gender identity" in ENDA is somewhat clearer in its scope, both bills will cover transsexuals, as well as other transgender people. Thus, the reason there is "no groundswell against this exclusion" is that there is no such exclusion to worry about.