Ontario health minister George Smitherman said yesterday that the province's government would soon start covering SRS. So, first, hurray!
While we don't even have a single-payer system in the US, if we did, I'm pretty sure that the procedures involved in SRS wouldn't be covered. So the fact that this is the debate in Canada shows that we here in the US still have a long ways to go to catch up with our northern neighbors.
Also, it's great for the trans people who can't afford it to be able to have access to this kind of surgery. It's medically necessary for a small but significant group of people and there's no reason for it not to be covered. Especially since the people who need it are already paying into the Canada's health care system.
But, second, there are a few reasons this is just a first step:
- The health minister is just talking to the media. He seems pretty sure and all, but still, there isn't anything in writing yet.
- What exactly gets covered under this plan hasn't been discussed. Sex reassignment surgery is a series of procedures and counseling and hormones and other medical expenses, and covering only part of the procedure still limits access.
- The gatekeeper for this procedure is the CAMH, formerly the Clarke Institute. The TS Road Map describes the CAMH as:
The Clarke Institute is a Toronto mental institution charged with serving gender-variant clients in the area. Under the direction of Ray Blanchard, it has become widely known as one of the most notorious facilities in the world in terms of controlling access to medical services.
According to their website they offer services, including for "those who wish to manage their cross-gender feelings and the expression of those feelings while remaining in their original gender role." This is another way to describe reparative therapy similar to groups who claim to "cure" gays and lesbians.
Much of the anti-trans thinking in the world today emanates from The Clarke, long nicknamed "Jurassic Clarke" in the trans community for its regressive policies.
xtra Canada says of previous SRS coverage in Ontario:
Trans surgery was covered under OHIP (the Ontario Health Insurance Plan) until Oct 1, 1998. But tight controls meant only eight to 12 surgeries were performed a year -- and only trans women had access to it. Stringent rules meant that many who wanted the surgery were barred from access through OHIP.
So many people who don't jump through all the hoops aren't going to get this surgery, whether they need it or not.
- Another point about the CAMH, that's where Kenneth Zucker works. He believes in the ex-trans therapy, which includes things like not looking at the color pink. His goal is to reduce the number of trans-identified people and supports those whose goal it is to reduce the number of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people. And he'll have power under this plan.
- One of those hoops that the CAMH was known for was that SRS was only for transwomen, not transmen.
Hopefully, when something actually gets worked out here, leaders from the trans community will be invited to participate in the implementation of this program. Since I've started learning more about the medicalization of transgenderism this past year, this seems to be the most obvious, egregious, and common oversight when it comes to anyone who wants to help trans people, whether they're in the "Free SRS for everybody!" or the "Just stop looking at pink, goddammit!" camps.
(Hat tip to reader Tobi for sending in all the links. Thanks!)