Trans health care workers to get training in the north
Many transgender people head south to find appropriate medical care
Posted: Oct 24, 2012 4:17 PM ET
Last Updated: Oct 24, 2012 4:03 PM ET
It's hard enough to find a doctor in the north, let alone one who has the training to help if somebody is questioning their gender, or wants to transition between the sexes with medical help.
A shortage of health services close to home means many transgender northerners are heading south and out-of-province.
The province will cover certain costs for sex change surgery under OHIP, but only after a recommendation from the Gender Identity Clinic operated by the Center for Addiction and Mental Health, which is located in downtown Toronto.
For Melissa Ross, a transgender woman in Sudbury, that surgery approval also meant several trips to a specialist in Montreal.
"I was planning it months in advance,” she said.
The Trans Health Connection co-ordinator for the province said going out of town can be a costly roll of the dice — especially if the move is permanent. It can mean losing housing, losing familial support, and losing income if people have to uproot themselves from their current home.
In some cases, Jordan Zaitzow said, it ends with homelessness — which is why he would like to see more services for the Trans community expanded outside of major centres.
Demand for Trans-competent services high
But there is hope for those looking for help a little closer to home.
A provincial project to teach health care workers about transgender-specific care is coming to Sudbury.
Offered through Rainbow Health Ontario, the three-day session will cover topics such as using appropriate language and creating safe spaces for people who identify as transgender.
While some clinical information will be touched on, the sessions aren't really about the science of gender transition, Zaitzow said.
“Prescribing hormones is not complicated medicine,” he noted.
“People get prescribed hormones all the time for a variety of different conditions. It's not complex. The piece that is really difficult for people is just getting over their feeling around trans-bodies, and their feeling around trans-people.”
Since the program was launched in May of 2011, Zaitzow said the demand for trans-competency training has been high — especially outside of Toronto.
According to one study funded by the province, about 70 per cent of transgender people in Ontario live outside of that city.
“That corridor between Barrie all the way up to the Sault is kind of like a black hole for trans health care,” Zaitzow said.
“And I'm not saying that there's nobody doing that work there, but there isn't a lot. And we get a lot of requests from people from Barrie north where they're just trying to access any sort of support and the resources are available to them are really scant.”
The trans-health session in Sudbury will be held in late January.
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