UK: Government accused of ‘mishandling’ trans healthcare

Transgender people in Britain called for more equal access to public healthcare on Thursday, saying they faced long waits for help in transitioning, after a senior politician said the government had “mishandled” trans issues.

Some reported waiting up to two years for an appointment at a specialist gender identity clinic, while others said they were refused altogether.

Aimee Challenor came out as transgender at 16, and was referred to a clinic that treats children, but said she had to wait almost two years to be transferred to a clinic for transgender adults when she turned 18.

“You get increasingly panicked over ‘Is this care going to be in place, it is going to continue?’ ” Challenor told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Thursday.

Now 21, she said she subsequently self-medicated, using the hormone oestrogen and a testosterone suppressive for nine months in 2017.

Under current law, trans people need a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria, and proof of having lived in their new gender for at least two years, to legally change their gender.

The comments came after Maria Miller, who chairs the women and equalities committee in the British parliament’s lower house, accused the government of prioritising political issues, over practical ones like access to public services.

“I think they have mishandled their approach to trans issues”, she told the Press Association media agency on Wednesday.

“Many trans people simply don’t have access to the basic healthcare that the rest of us take for granted”, she added, saying some transgender men had been unable to get cervical smear tests.

Two in five trans people said they had encountered healthcare staff who did not understand their needs, according to a 2018 survey by British LGBT+ charity, Stonewall.

Challenor said she was concerned she might experience what she called “trans broken arm syndrome”, if she had to see a different doctor to her usual one for issues not related to her gender transition.

“You go in with a broken arm and they go: ‘But what about your hormones?’ ” she said.

Teacher, Debbie Hayton, said she had received psychiatric support within 18 weeks of asking for help in 2012. But she was not referred for gender surgery for two years, and it was another two years before she actually got the surgery.

“The unprecedented rise in demand was not being addressed at all”, she said.

Referrals to clinics that specialise in treating transgender adults have increased 240 percent in five years, James Palmer, the medical director for specialised services at NHS England, said at a conference in June 2018.

Parents of transgender children have reported “mixed” experiences with local doctors, said Susie Green, chief executive of trans youth charity, Mermaids, which conducted a survey of 76 parents and young people.

Some parents had doctors refuse to refer their children to specialist clinics. However, one parent reported receiving “excellent support”, Green said.

-Rachel Savage @rachelmsavage, Thomson Reuters Foundation

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