Canadian Provinces Deny Transgender Health Care

In the past few weeks, two Canadian provinces have denied transgender people funding for their basic health care needs in a country which touts a universal and public health care system.

First came Alberta, which previously covered sex reassignment surgery (SRS) (also known as GRS — gender reassignment surgery or gender reaffirmation surgery).  The province decided to delist (stop funding) SRS procedures, ostensibly as a part of their bid to address the current budget deficit.

Only problem is that cutting coverage for such surgeries amounts to only $700,000 in savings.  The overall heath care budget for Alberta is almost $13 billion; the deficit is approximately $4.7 billion.

Now comes Manitoba. The province currently only funds a couple of SRS-related surgeries and doesn’t even cover hormone treatments for trans people.  They have now just rejected a proposal (ads on site may be NSFW) to fully cover hormone therapies and SRS, citing “the economic downturn.”  This is despite the fact that the province has increased spending overall this year by 4.4% and still expects to have a $48 million surplus.

Both Alberta and Manitoba have claimed SRS and other specifically trans-related health services do not deserve coverage in this economic downturn while others still do based on the notion that such services are “cosmetic” and/or “unnecessary.”  Which means that they’ve clearly misunderstood the idea that just because not all trans people want or seek out the same medical procedures/care as a part of transition, or any procedures/care at all, it doesn’t mean that it’s not a necessity for a good bulk of those who do.   Either that, or they just don’t care — and don’t expect a vast majority of taxpayers to care, either.

What this is seemingly about in Alberta is pretending that they’re doing something about the damn budget by disparaging and harming an already oppressed and marginalized group.  They’re using that age old tactic of pretending that a certain group that society holds bigotry against is a drain on taxpayer money, while erasing the fact that trans people are taxpayers too, and that even if they weren’t, the point of the system is to guarantee health care for all.  And in Manitoba just doesn’t want to be bothered with extending full rights to all of its residents in the first place.

Of course, we have the same problem down here in the U.S., too.  First of all, we don’t have a public health care system to begin with, and so many trans people lack insurance, and those who do have it are often denied coverage for the care they need — again, because it’s seen as “a drain” and “unnecessary” and “too expensive.”  It’s seen as a “lifestyle choice” rather than a part of health care, and a very important part, and a necessary part, for many people.

In other words, it’s really just another way that cis-controlled society and power structures can illegitimize trans identities as less real.  It’s a means of valuing cis health and lives way high above trans health and lives, not to mention placing physical health above mental health.  It’s saying that those “15-20” people in each province who would seek out SRS each year just don’t fucking matter.  And on top of all that, it’s also scapegoating.

It’s the height of transphobia, and it’s going to have a very real, extremely harmful impact on the lives of those affected.  And thanks to the fact that transphobia is inherently dehumanizing, the powers that be just don’t give a shit.

0 thoughts on “Canadian Provinces Deny Transgender Health Care

  1. Amanda in the South Bay

    From what I understand, both of those provinces (especially Alberta) are pretty much bumfuck in their political makeup-it doesn’t surprise me that they are screwing us over.

  2. Lyndsay

    Well, hard to believe but I just found out Manitoba’s government is NDP (further left than the liberals). I’m surprised since conservative won the most seats here in the federal election.

  3. GallingGalla

    i decided against moving to canada a couple of years ago (was looking for an alternative to the usa if mccain was elected).

    at this point, i’ll be damned if i will spend a penny visiting that country or purchasing anything from a canadian company or agency.

  4. Renee

    For the record Alberta is a very conservative province, you could call it our equivalent of Texas. Manitoba has an NDP government, however the provincial and federal levels of each party often operate very differently, with each playing at their various level to get elected.

    I find the comments about not buying Canadian or supporting Canadian owned products to be extremely offensive. Yes, we have two provinces that are in the wrong, however there are still other provinces where SRS is covered and that is being ignored because of the bigotry of two provinces. Boycotting an entire country for the sake of two provinces is wrong. Would it be fair for me to say that Texas is representative of the US?

    I am the first one to say that Canada has its issues, however how much coverage do you receive for SRS in the US? I am quite sure that we do a much better job. I should also point out that what Alberta has done is a violation of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They know that the delisting is only temporary because it is a violation of human rights. The same thing was tried in Ontario and over ruled for that very same reason. It may take much longer than it should but this decision will be overturned because the legal framework against such discrimination already exists. Tell me where would I find such a policy in the US?

  5. brandon

    It also brings into question that nobody has actually done any research on the number of transpeople in any given province. I have a feeling that (and I live in Ontario – where a really small number of SRS’s are covered) if SRS/GRS was more accessible, it would be far more than just 15-20 people. More like, oh, I don’t know. 150-200? 500? Who knows. It would certainly mean that people wouldn’t need to save for 10 years to get it.

    It can also be a physical health concern if transpeople don’t have access to health care. Transpeople who are more visible are often more susceptible to transphobia and transphobic violence. The difference between having access to SRS/GRS and not having SRS/GRS could be the difference between getting raped and not getting raped, being beaten and not being beaten, being killed and not being killed, having a job (thus access to nutritional food, safe housing, etc) and not having a job.

  6. GallingGalla

    1. trans people living in ontario have only one place to go to for treatment – CAMH, run by blanchard and zucker, who are well known for their transphobia, and are doing everything they can to morally mandate trans folk out of existence, including revising DSM-V to pathologize us further than we already are.

    2. Vancouver Rape Relief’s decision to exclude trans women from either volunteering there or receiving services there has been upheld by the canadian supreme court. hence the canadian FEDERAL government has endorsed hate against us.

    3. i for one would not be disturbed by a canadian’s decision to boycott the US. both the US and canada are proving to be pretty hateful to a lot of groups of people, and the US is doing a very good job of exporting our brand of hate to canada and to a lot of other countries.

    4. your statement sounds uncomfortably close to a “you’re just a mean trans woman” tone argument.

  7. Lyndsay

    “both the US and canada are proving to be pretty hateful to a lot of groups of people”

    Is there any country that is not hateful to some group of people? Even looking at only trans people, is there really a country that has done nothing hateful toward trans people in the last decade? You can’t boycott good from every country.

  8. Hanne

    @Lyndsay: Manitoba’s government is NDP, yes, but it’s a very centrist version of the NDP, if that makes sense. The NDP provincial government has a history of cutting back on healthcare in the past (i.e. cutting back on partial coverage for chiropractic).

  9. E.M. Russell

    GallingGalla: Dear. God. Are you aware of half of what your country does in your name? Gitmo springs to mind… Do you boycott their goods? So let’s not be saying irrational things and holding countries to wildly different standards.
    I’d have to say Canada is waaay more tolerant than the US. When people say that Americans and Canadians are anything alike I just point towards same-sex unions being legal across the country compared to them only being legal in a handful of states in the US.
    And agreed with what others have said: Alberta is full of oil-greedy hicks, but MANITOBA?! I expected better from them.

    1. Cara Post author

      Ummmmm . . . disagreeing is one thing, but can we not call a trans woman who is upset about a denial of trans rights “irrational”?

      I will also say that I don’t have a patriotic bone in my body and so I can’t even remotely begin to relate to why it is that people get up in arms when there is a perceived slight against it. But I do know what it’s like to have the crappy elements of your country turned into the whole country and to have to listen to “America sucks, it’s evil, murderers, bastards, greedy capitalists,” etc. I lived in Australia for 3 years, the only American in sight and my first time out of the country (outside of Niagara Falls), in the build up to and the beginning of the Iraq war. I’ve totally been in that position. And my response to all of that was “yeah, I know.”

      GG did not say “fuck all Canadians.” Not even remotely. Worst case, her comments can be interpreted as saying “fuck Canada.” Which is not the same. Again, I don’t have a patriotic bone in my body, so when someone says “fuck America,” as they so regularly do, I don’t get all up in arms. But I especially don’t do so when my country has just enacted discrimination against a group that the speaker belongs to.

  10. Missundaztood

    Once again a government bows down to prejudice & uses trans as a scapegoat. The savings are miniscule, there is no justification for that at all. They have actively & openly prejudised against trans there in Canada. Anyone with half a brain will realise that. Shameful & a disgrace from a country that is supposedly inclusive & diverse. Do they honestly believe that the figures saved don’t out their actions?

  11. Pingback: Gender variant life in Canada | Trans Bodies Across The Globe

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