Gender reassignment decades-long wait list 'horrendous'


More needs to be done to help speed up the time transgender people have to wait for surgery,
says the Agender NZ president.

The decades-long wait for surgery transgender people in New Zealand face is being denounced as"horrendous".

Agender New Zealand president Trevor Nelley - also known as Tracee - said the country's slow progression on gender reassignment surgeries was causing a lot of frustration within the trans community.

There are 71 people on a Ministry of Health publicly funded waiting list for male to female surgery, and 19 waiting for female to male surgery.

The ministry has a high cost treatment pool, which provides funding to New Zealanders requiring transgender-related plastic surgery.

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There is public funding available for three male to female surgeries and one female to male surgery every two years, with the operations taking place overseas.

But Nelley said the decades-long waiting time for surgery was not good enough, especially as the transgender community was growing at "an alarming rate".

"I think we have a lot of frustrated people in our society because of the fact that the so-called waiting list is of a horrendous magnitude."

While Nelley is bi-gender and does not want surgery, he said he was a strong advocate for people who did.

Nelley said he knew what it was like to stare into a mirror, bawling his eyes out because he was not happy with how he was feeling.

He said it was important for transgender people to be able to align themselves in all aspects of their life.

"When they look in the mirror, that's who they see. They see a woman, they see a man - they see that they belong in society as a member of the opposite sex."

Nelley said there were so many people out there wanting surgery, and not just gender reassignment surgery, but also secondary surgeries, such as facial work and breast reconstruction.

Information obtained from Auckland, Counties Manukau, Waitemata, Canterbury, and Capital and Coast district health boards, showed there were 74 secondary surgeries for to transgender people between 2010 and 2016.

The most common secondary surgeries were mastectomies, nipple reconstructions and hysterectomies.

Nelley said he understood the Government had to prioritise issues and keep the country financially stable, but the long wait transgender people were facing was becoming a problem.

The ministry's chief medical officer Dr Andrew Simpson said there was no-one in New Zealand with the specific expertise and training to carry out the male to female gender reassignment surgery.

Since the retirement of the plastic surgeon on the gender reassignment surgery team in 2014, the ministry had been working with the referring specialists to refer people overseas for treatment, he said.

Female to male surgery was highly specialised surgery and had always been carried out overseas.

Nelly said people were able to go overseas privately to achieve full gender reassignment surgeries, but shouldn't have to. 

New Zealand needed to get its act together, he said.

Simpson said the ministry was in the process of contacting medical professionals, such as endocrinologists, who provide care for individuals waiting for surgery and helping arrange their surgeries overseas.

Four male to female and one female to male overseas surgeries were also planned for 2016/17.

Trans rights activist Bella Simpson said legislative change from the minister of health was needed to help speed up the process.

She hoped there would be people in high positions coming forward in 2017, and showing they cared about transgender issues.

- Stuff