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After my post about Sexual Reassignment Surgery, I delved more into research on SRS in Canada. Jaime and I live in BC, but owing to the nomadic nature of college students who are seeking education beyond a bachelor’s, there’s no guarantee where we will be next year, and we really have no clue as to where we will be living permanently, and therefore whether we could be considered “residents” of Province X.

Well, someone has been kind enough to assemble a chart which shows all of the different types of coverage available. It’s very helpful!

But also, it’s making me realize how, even though it is wonderful that it is provincially covered in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec, it’s still really, really difficult to access it if you are poor, rural, disabled, not from these provinces, or all of the above. There’s so much more that can be done to make this essential and life-saving surgery (I am not being glib, that is really what it is) accessible.

For starters, people from Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Laborador have to travel to Ontario to get an assessment. Manitoba covers the travel costs, but Saskatchewan doesn’t. If you live in Ontario, you have to travel to Toronto, and that can be a major travel expense for someone from the North of Ontario. Quebecers have to travel to Montreal to get their costs covered. If you are like me and don’t/can’t drive, you’d better hope you have a friend who is willing to go on a road trip for your sake. The general placement of hospitals which can perform these surgeries is understandable, but the fact that only Manitoba realizes that cover costs need to be covered as well is saddening.

British Columbia caught my eye the most, and not just because I live there. The list for BC was the longest, and most detailed, which is both good and bad. The first requirement for all patients was that they be, in their words, “emotionally and psychologically stable”.

I know that sounds nice and reasonable, but think for a minute about what life is like for a trans person: You undergo a lot of daily discrimination, you’re at risk at any time to be fired from your job or evicted from your home simply for being trans, and there’s not much in the way of legal protection for you if this happens. If you’re under 18, then you risk losing your home if your parents decide to kick you out for coming out, or worse, put you in a “cure” therapy, or constantly bully and belittle you for your decision to live in the appropriate gender.

Trans people are significantly more likely, for these reasons, to be homeless and unemployed than their cis counterparts. Many turn to sex work or selling drugs in order to keep themselves alive. Under these conditions, would you be “emotionally and psychologically stable?” Depends on how vague the definition the professionals give. Or what if you have autism? What if you were bullied as a child? What if you were sexually assaulted and have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Whether or not any of those criteria would disqualify you from being “emotionally and psychologically stable” is really unclear, and it would largely depend on the whims of the doctors and therapists assigned to a trans person. They are only human, and some may carry biases which influence their decision on whether or not someone qualifies as “stable” in any fashion.  It’s too vague and too easily exploited.

There’s no mention of travelling needed in the BC section, but I’m putting money on the need to travel to Vancouver or Victoria if you want someone who won’t be a transphobic asshole the right type of specialist.

And finally… Alberta, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick have failed their trans residents on every level by not covering any surgeries. For those who can’t get out of the province to move to one which does cover SRS, it can be a veritable death sentence, left without the chance to make things right with your body and live as you know you must.

Canada is my beloved adopted country, and I proudly chose it to call my home. But it is far from perfect, and I hope that I can one day live to see not only SRS being covered completely across all provinces and territories, but queer-friendly healthcare being accessible all across Canada, available regardless of location or income. It’s a matter of respecting queer and trans people equally as Canadian citizens and human beings.