The Current

Wait times for sexual reassignment surgery outrage transgender community

Wait times for surgery are nothing new in Canadian health care. But the wait times that transgender Canadians face, just to be referred for gender reassignment surgeries, is getting longer and longer.... and it's sparking outrage inside the trans community.
Transgender activists want provincial governments to re asses how patients are referred for sexual reassignment surgery. The lengthy wait times due to a lack of approved people who can give referrals for surgery is not acceptable, say patients. (Torbak Hopper/Flickr)
It's going to be easier to exist, to put it really simply. When you are living with something that doesn't belong on your body...breasts in my case, that's not how I identify as being male. To not have to worry or be anxious and hating myself about it, would be wonderful.- 17-year-old Brynn Emond is waiting for sexual reassignment surgery 

For anyone struggling with gender identity disorder, just arriving at the decision to fully transition from their birth gender to the one they truly identify with, can be a difficult and painful process. But after that decision is made, another obstacle often looms large in their path.

We're speaking about wait times, and wait times especially to get referred for sex reassignment surgery. It's a referral that can't come from a patient's regular physician, but from a special assessment centre. These centres may be far away, in some cases out of province. And yet they're the only way to get a green light for a life-changing procedure.

Now, as more and more people are seeking surgeries to change their gender, the wait times at these clinics are swelling out of control. It's an issue that's causing outrage inside Canada's transgender community.

Brynn Emond is a 17-year-old transgender male. He's waiting for an appointment at CAMH, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto. It's the only clinic in Ontario approved to refer patients for this surgery.

Brynn Emond joined us from Ottawa, together with his mother, Shanon Page, who belongs to a parent support group that is petitioning Ontario's Ministry of Health to amend the referral process for sex reassignment surgery.

It's not just patients, but doctors too, who are calling on provincial governments to improve this situation.

  • Dr. Chris McIntosh is a Psychiatrist, and the Clinic Head of the Adult Gender Identity Clinic at CAMH in Toronto.
  • Dr. Pierre Brassard is a Cosmetic Plastic Surgeon, and the owner of a private hospital that performs transgender surgeries. Dr. Brassard and his partner, are the only surgeons in the country who perform genital reassignment surgery. He joined us from Montreal. 

If you're on a wait list for trans care or surgery, let us know your experience. Email us through our website. 

This segment was produced by The Current's Sarah Grant and Natalie Walters.