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Increasing demand for gender-affirming surgeries in Canada

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Experts say the wait lists for gender-affirming surgeries in Canada is growing, with some procedures requiring patients wait more than five years.

The Women’s College Hospital in Toronto became the first public institution in Canada to offer specialized surgeries in 2019 through its Transition Related Surgical Program. Before that, patients would have to go to a private clinic in Montreal, the United States, or overseas.

“Even now, about a third of transition-related surgeries are occurring outside of the province,” VP of Strategy and Quality at Women’s College Jack Woodman said.

The wait for top surgery - breast augmentation or chest masculinization - can be anywhere from 12 months to two years, experts say. The wait for vaginoplasties can be up to 65 months.

“I always like to emphasize that not all trans people want or require surgery. It’s really important to acknowledge that. But for those that do, it can be life-saving,” Woodman said.

This was the case for 27-year-old Toronto resident Amelia Smith, who has finished recuperating from a gender-affirming surgery performed in May 2021.

“I’d like to see a rise in provincial funding go along with that” she said. “Because that’s really what’s limiting things right now.”

Woodman says a lack of data for the trans and non-binary community is part of the problem in getting funding for transition related surgery.

And beyond that, they’d like to see not just surgery, but a full range of health services for the community.

“What folks need to remember is that one of the biggest issues in health-care for trans and non-binary people is the stigma and discrimination,” he said. “It’s that - walking into your doctors office, you feel welcome and comfortable to share what your situation is, what your health-care issues are. These are things that we really have to work on.”

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health provides a list of resources for individuals experiencing a crisis.

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