Times Colonist article about phalloplasty funding in B.C. misses the mark

The following article written by the Victoria Times Colonist’s Katherine Dedyna was forwarded to me via a mailing list this morning:

Not all transsexuals are created equal in the eyes of the B.C. Ministry of Health: MSP covers genital surgery to transform males to females, but not females to males

While I’m pleased to see some discussion of the issue happening, my overall feeling is that this article is poorly timed and misguided.

I  agree that it is discriminatory for B.C.’s Medical Services Plan to fund MTF surgery but not FTM surgery, but I also think the issue is not so cut-and-dry, at least not in these economic times. We have other battles to be won before we can even think of having phalloplasty funding in place.

In the area of trans health, I’d like the Ministry to ensure that pre-T guys get better access to a doctor who can refer them to an endocrinologist to start testosterone therapy. And, how many guys are there in B.C. who would experience a radical improvement in their quality of life if MSP would cover—fully and completely—top surgery performed by the skilled Dr. Bowman, right here in our province?

Victoria psychiatrist Dr. Gail Knudson says there are hundreds of people waiting for transgender surgery in B.C.

How many of these people are trans men waiting for top surgery? How many are waiting for phalloplasty?

What I also find troubling is that there is no mention of metoidioplasty in this article, a procedure with costs that  are comparable to MTF genital surgery. (UPDATE: It turns out that there were strategic reasons behind this.)

This swerves off-topic from my main points, but I couldn’t resist:

Nor is Abbott aware that anyone has made a request for the province to reconsider MSP coverage for phalloplasty. “Were someone to tender such a request, like all other proposals, we would look at it. … And we would attempt, as we have to this point, to engage the best medical expertise possible.”

No one has made a formal request for the reinstatement of phalloplasty coverage? Perhaps I should get out a pen, as there’s a chance that MSP would “engage the best medical expertise” to evaluate my request. Consider it done.

The state of SRS funding in B.C. is unacceptable and discriminatory. Under the current economic situation however, perhaps a stronger case for addressing this discrimination could have been made had the article pressed for top surgery coverage, a procedure that I’m sure there is a much longer line-up for in this province. Additionally,  the article could have mentioned metoidioplasty as a less expensive FTM genital procedure that’s also worthy of provincial funding.

The people who want to see this situation changed need to think more like marketers: ethics aside, the issue of transgender surgery funding needs to be strategically sold in these times where basic medical needs for all British Columbians are not being adequately met.


ps. Katherine Dedyna also authored a companion article to this one, entitled Growing up different: B.C. transgender patients line up for surgery but doctor who can do it is denied OR time. I very strongly agree with the points made in this piece.

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