British Columbia

Former B.C. resident says she can't complete gender reassignment after move to Newfoundland

A woman trying to complete her gender transition says she's been set back "years" after moving from B.C. to Newfoundland.

'It's not an equal standard of care across this country,' says Stacey Piercey

"It hurts because I know I'm losing time. I want to be in love, I want to have a family, I want to have a home, that's important to me. But right now I'm stuck," said Stacey Piercey. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

A woman trying to complete her gender transition says she's been set back "years" after moving from B.C. to Newfoundland.

Stacey Piercey, who moved to the island last year, had been approved for breast augmentation in B.C., but is unable to get that surgery in Newfoundland and Labrador, a province which has few policies around how gender transition-related surgeries are covered. 

Piercey, 44, worked as a business consultant in B.C. for years, and ran unsuccessfully for the B.C. Liberals in the 2017 provincial election. Later that year she decided to move back to Newfoundland to be with family.

She soon discovered that although she'd been approved for breast augmentation surgery in B.C., she's unable to get that surgery in Newfoundland.

Piercey said her case highlights how a patchwork of provincial rules around which gender reassignment surgeries are covered and how they are approved can leave transgender people stuck in different phases of their transitions.

It's not an equal standard of care across the country.- Stacey Piercey

"I was ready to transition and the province was ready with me, everything was just great. And then I came back to Newfoundland and now I just feel so far away from that surgery," said Piercey, who lives in St. John's.

"I've gone back probably eight or nine years in my transition and I'm starting over again in a province where there aren't a lot of procedures in place.

"It's not an equal standard of care across this country."

Lengthy approval process

Piercey had her first gender reassignment surgery in B.C. in 2014. 

Then, after three-and-a-half years of seeing specialists, she was finally approved for breast augmentation. She had a letter from Medical Services Plan, B.C.'s public health care provider, confirming the province would cover the cost, and even had a surgeon in B.C. lined up before she moved to Newfoundland.

But once in Newfoundland and Labrador, she found that there was no mechanism through which the province would recognize that approval. She believes she may be the first person to have requested the surgery in that province.

"It should be as simple now as transferring that surgery to [Newfoundland and Labrador], where a surgeon should be able to perform it, because there are inter-provincial agreements," she said.

"So I'm waiting to hear something, but it's a smaller province and we don't have the medical supports like other places."

Piercey has met with deputies from Newfoundland and Labrador's health ministry and the ministry of social services, but has not heard from them since those meetings.

It hurts because I know I'm losing time. I want to be in love, I want to have a family, I want to have a home, that's important to me. But right now I'm stuck.- Stacey Piercey

In a statement to CBC News, a spokesperson for Newfoundland and Labrador's health ministry said breast augmentation is not currently available for funding under that province's medical health plan, but said "work is underway" to make it eligible.

The province does cover the cost of some transition-related surgeries when the procedures are completed outside the province at a publicly funded health centre in Canada. 

To be eligible for surgery through Newfoundland and Labrador's Medical Care Plan (MCP), a referral is required from the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health, Gender Identity Clinic in Toronto, the statement said.

'Stuck'

But those options are of no help to Piercey, who is now fundraising to pay for the breast augmentation, which could cost between $5,000 and $10,000.

She said it is particularly frustrating because after years of progress, she now feels she's taken a step backwards.

"It hurts because I know I'm losing time. I want to be in love, I want to have a family, I want to have a home, that's important to me. But right now I'm stuck."

With files from Zahra Premji

About the Author

Michelle Ghoussoub

@MichelleGhsoub

Michelle Ghoussoub is a journalist with CBC News in Vancouver. She has previously reported in Lebanon and Chile. Reach her at michelle.ghoussoub@cbc.ca or on Twitter @MichelleGhsoub.