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Trans people are seeing surgeries cancelled and healthcare deemed ‘non-essential’ during coronavirus

Vic Parsons March 23, 2020
Coronavirus: Trans people see their healthcare deemed 'non-essential'

A transgender woman in a hospital gown speaking to her doctor. (Zachary Drucker/The Gender Spectrum Collection)

Trans and non-binary people are seeing healthcare and gender-affirming surgeries cancelled as hospitals prepare for an influx of coronavirus patients.

Deemed “non-essential” by most health providers, including the UK’s NHS, for trans people these surgeries can hugely reduce gender dysphoria and improve quality of life.

As the coronavirus pandemic spreads, more and more trans people are taking to Twitter and Reddit to share their frustration at having long-awaited healthcare cancelled.

Abigail, a trans woman in Wales, told Vice: “The waiting times are [extremely long] and nobody knows when things will get back to normal.”

“None of us are angry at medical staff, or even the decisions, but at the system – which is so lacking in resilience, and lets us down so regularly,” she added.

In the UK, it takes several years to get gender-affirming healthcare – like hormone treatments and gender-confirming surgery – on the NHS.

The average wait for an appointment with a gender specialist is two years, and it takes multiple appointments, often with gaps of months or years inbetween, to arrive at a point where gender-affirming healthcare is offered.

Abigail, 40, had her surgery last week – and now her follow-up care may be in jeopardy because of coronavirus.

“It’s an odd atmosphere. The ward is half-empty. [The nurses] know there won’t be any other patients like me for a while, nor any other recipients of [non-urgent] surgery,” she said.

“They know coronavirus patients will be coming, but they’re not here yet.”

The NHS has postponed millions of non-essential surgeries to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

Vice spoke to multiple other trans people from around the world, including many whose surgery was now indefinitely postponed due to the pandemic.

Violet Jones, a 29-year-old trans woman in New York, has surgery scheduled for May that hasn’t been cancelled yet.

However, New York mayor Bill de Blasio has signed an executive order delaying all non-emergency surgery for the next couple of weeks.

Jones, who is also an assistant professor, said she’s doing everything she can not to get coronavirus, which would force postponing her procedure.

“A change to the date would pretty radically alter my plans and overall security around the procedure. The surgery was scheduled to allow recovery during [my school’s] summer months without a gap in pay,” she said.

“I’ve spent my entire life falling asleep while begging any theoretical omnipotent beings to let me wake up in the body I need to feel comfortable, and, [in May], that was finally going to happen,” Jones added.

“To lose that security would really harm my mental health and make it feel like it may never actually happen.”

Despite this stress, Jones is trying to keep things in perspective because of COVID-19’s vast impact on public health for everyone: “I understand that this is largely out of my hands, and that if/when the decision is made to cancel or reschedule the surgery, it’ll be for the greater good of those who need facilities.”

More: gender affirming care, gender confirmation surgery, Gender Identity Clinics, NHS, trans healthcare

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