LYNNE LUND: Gaps in gender-affirming care in PEI

All Islanders deserve to receive the healthcare services necessary for their well-being, their safety in the community, and their ability to live their healthy, authentic self. This should be true no matter the person’s background, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Our healthcare system is founded on the principle that everyone should have access to the care they need.

Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.

The World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) sets standards of care for the health of transgender, transexual, and gender non-conforming people. While Health PEI has supposedly adopted these standards of care, the King government is not providing all the necessary healthcare services outlined in them.

An Islander with gender dysphoria shared with me that she is unable to access the medically prescribed treatments for such a diagnosis. Without access to procedures to help her, she is left feeling unwell, unseen, and uncared for. It makes her a target of abuse. It increases her risk for violence.

The province covers some, but not all, sex reassignment surgeries. It also does not provide many of the surgeries that are often critical to treating gender dysphoria, such as facial feminization or other procedures. As the WPATH standards point out, many of these other so-called “aesthetic” procedures “can have a radical and permanent effect on their quality of life, and therefore [are] much more medically necessary than for somebody without gender dysphoria”. (WPATH, (2012), Standards of Care for the Health of Transexual, Transgender, and Gender Nonconforming People, 7th Version, p. 58.) Many of these surgeries are less invasive and less expensive, but often more impactful for a trans person’s well-being.

We have often heard Premier King speak about equality, inclusivity, and the value of diversity. Just this week he encouraged everyone to learn about and celebrate the gender diversity of PEI. So, why are only some gender-affirming procedures provided but others are not? Who is making the decisions about who receives care and who doesn’t? What is the basis for those decisions? I’ve asked these questions to Minister of Health Ernie Hudson, but he refuses to provide an answer.

Prince Edward Island must provide better access to gender-affirming healthcare for Islanders. The decision of what is or isn’t medically necessary is a discussion between a patient and their healthcare provider.I am calling on Minister Hudson to make PEI the most inclusive healthcare provider in deeds as well as words. Provide gender-affirming healthcare now.