Nova Scotia

Province to cover transgender breast augmentation after human rights complaint

The province has decided to cover breast augmentation surgery for transgender women after a transgender activist filed a human rights complaint against the health department last year. 

Transgender women now have equal access to chest surgery as transgender men

From left: Kate Shewan, formerly of the Nova Scotia Youth Project, Nova Scotia NDP spokesperson for LGBTQ affairs Susan Leblanc, transgender activist Serina Slaunwhite, lawyer Susanne Litke and transgender activist Michael Davies-Cole pose at the legislature in Halifax last August. (The Canadian Press/Alex Cooke)

The province has decided to cover breast augmentation surgery for transgender women after a transgender activist filed a human rights complaint against the Health Department last year

Serina Slaunwhite was denied breast implants in 2017 on grounds the surgery was not considered medically necessary. 

Slaunwhite said it was unfair the province covered breast removal and masculinization surgeries for transgender men, but not augmentation for transgender women. 

"In Nova Scotia, twice as many procedures are funded for individuals transitioning from female to male, compared to those transitioning from male to female," Slaunwhite said in a press release from the Nova Scotia NDP on Friday.

"I know I am a woman but this is challenged daily when others react to me and how I look. Breast augmentation is a vital and final means of aligning my body with my identity."

The gender-affirming surgery will be available starting in July, making Nova Scotia the fourth province to cover the cost of procedure after British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario.

Eligibility will be determined based on criteria and an assessment by a health-care professional, the province said in a release on Friday. 

'I can appreciate the distress'

"I can appreciate the distress transgender people can experience during their transition, and I thank those who have advocated for this change," said Health and Wellness Minister Randy Delorey.

"We are now providing more support and more equitable coverage for transgender women." 

Last year, the Health Department said transgender women usually develop breasts through hormonal therapy, which is covered by provincial pharmacare programs. 

Hormone therapy doesn't always result in a breast size that helps transgender women pass — or be perceived as the gender with which they wish to identify — thus making the surgery medically necessary, argued Susanne Litke, Slaunwhite's lawyer with Dalhousie Legal Aid Service.

Without coverage, breast augmentation can cost several thousands of dollars.

now