AJ Ripley sheds light on transgender health care

A Fredericton non-binary transgender person is speaking out about transgender health access in New Brunswick and Canada in a documentary.

Their new documentary premiered Monday evening in Fredericton

On Hold 0:33

A Fredericton transgender person is speaking out about transgender health access in a new documentary.

AJ Ripley says access in New Brunswick and Canada is a challenge. 

Ripley is a non-binary transgender person, which means Ripley uses the pronouns 'they' and 'their.' 

It was important for Ripley to share their experience. `

"It's difficult to share your personal experience in a public way, but I also think it's incredibly necessary," said Ripley.

AJ Ripley and VICE Canada screened the documentary 'On Hold' Monday evening at St. Thomas University.

The documentary discusses transgender health care access in Canada through personal, first-hand experiences.

"I think until people are able to see my story, or see the story of somebody they know in an intimate way, they don't really have an understanding," said Ripley.

"They have statistics which often don't do the necessary work. It's hard to put yourself out there, but it's what we need right now."

Nine out of 10 provinces offer some access to some transgender surgeries—though there is only one hospital, in Montreal, that provides the full gamut of treatments, according to the documentary.

New Brunswick stands alone by not offering any funded procedures to transgender individuals.​ ​

 "It does look different from province to province, but there are barriers to access nationally that you really need to look at. And it's my hope that by hearing the narratives from these amazing and courageous individuals, that people will be able to humanize something that doesn't always seem so human, such as the health care system," said Ripley.

Ripley has set up an online crowdfunding campaign called 'Take My Breasts Away' to aid in their top surgery that isn't covered in New Brunswick.

"I hope that the documentary will provide people with an understanding of what it's like to be a transgender Canadian trying to access health care in our country."

Reid Lodge is also transgender and living in Fredericton, and he, too, is awaiting surgery to further his transition.

"I definitely think New Brunswick in general has a long way to go," said Lodge. "We struggle with basic issues like access to appropriate health care … a lot of people in New Brunswick just aren't aware of transgender people or what they go through, or how to appropriately speak about transgender people."

"If you don't have health care access you don't have much," said Lodge. You feel marginalized. You feel that you're vulnerable. You don't feel like a citizen in your own country when you're not protected in that way."

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