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Trans man left waiting years for gender surgery ‘deemed not vital by council’

Reiss Smith June 24, 2019
A man wearing a beanie hat and hoody looking away from the camera

A transgender man waited 13 years for gender affirmation surgery. (Andrew Neel/Unsplash)

A transgender man said he waited more than a decade for gender affirmation surgery after a local council “decided it wasn’t vital.”

The Lincoln man known only as John (not his real name) is a single parent-of-two. He claims that he was left waiting for surgery after Lincolnshire County Council refused him childcare support, and described his experience with medics and council officials as “a nightmare.”

The 42-year-old began his transition process in 1998, but wasn’t referred for surgery until 2009.

“The majority of my friends had abandoned me because I was trans, and my family, whom I didn’t have much contact with, lived far away,” he told LinconshireLive.

When he asked the council for help in looking after his two children—one of whom has learning difficulties—he was refused unless he told them why he was going into hospital. He did not, and his request was denied twice.

John’s ‘right to medical privacy was breached’

On the second denial, John requested to see the council’s paperwork and learned that his daughter’s school had told council workers that he was transgender.

“From this information it was apparent that the council had decided that my surgery must be trans related and therefore wasn’t ‘vital’ surgery,” he explained.

“My rights to medical privacy were breached and the social services made a prejudice decision based on this information and the fact that I was trans.”

“Social services made a prejudice decision based on this information and the fact that I was trans.”

—John, a transgender man from Lincoln

Ultimately, John waited until his children were old enough to look after themselves before beginning his medical transition in 2016.

He says that he spent 20 years unable to work full-time due to the agony of wearing a chest binder every day.

“The impact on my life was huge. It affected my kids and it affected me as a parent,” he said.

“I sunk into a severe depression. Unfortunately the medical professions I saw didn’t see me being trans and my depression as being linked. They wanted me to compartmentalise things, to treat them as separate, which only made things worse.”

Trans man forced to wait for hormone therapy

John told of how in the early days of his transition, he was made to “do the ‘real life’ test,” changing his name and ID and living in his true gender before being given access to hormone therapy.

“Most GPs, even to this day, don’t have training in gender reassignment. You have to educate them. You have to educate yourself and then your GP,” he said.

At various points John was refused his benefits and accused of bank fraud because officials didn’t believe that he was the person his ID said that he was.

“The problem is that I looked completely female but I had to live as a man, going into gents toilets, using ID with ‘Mr’ on,” he explained.

“I was having to out myself again and again to strangers.”

—John, a transgender man from Lincoln

“I was having to out myself again and again to strangers, all while having to jump through unbelievable hoops to get surgery.”

Janice Spencer, interim director of children’s services at Lincolnshire County Council, told LinconshireLive: “We can’t discuss details of individual cases.

“We can confirm that any referrals into children’s services, including cases like these, are considered carefully and objectively and assessed according to need.”

Transgender Brits face long waiting times

In the UK, transgender people who are over 18 must live in their true gender for at least two years, and must be diagnosed with gender dysphoria before they can legally transition. Those who are under 18 are unable to apply for a new birth certificate until they come of age.

The Government is currently contemplating reforms to the Gender Recognition Act, which could streamline the process.

The waiting time for an appointment with one of England’s seven gender identity clinics are often two years or longer, despite an NHS target of 18 weeks for a first appointment.

In May, it was reported that a gender clinic in Devon had a three-year waiting list.

More: England, gender surgery, Trans, trans man, Transgender, transgender man

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