Healthcare is already difficult for trans people to access, but coronavirus has created a whole new challenge for the community.
Covid-19 has affected many people in drastic ways, with many unable to work or attend school, and others such as NHS workers finding themselves on the front line of the pandemic.
Most forms of ‘non-essential’ surgeries have been cancelled as hospitals prepare for treating coronavirus patients.
Gender Identity Clinics (GICs) support transgender individuals seeking medical care to complete their transition. There are eight GICs in England, and they all offer access to gender affirming healthcare including hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery. They have all now stopped face-to-face appointments with their patients, and many are instead offering appointments over the phone.
One individual, who prefers to not be named, had his surgery date cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak, and has not yet been offered an alternative date,
“This is putting me in a really uncertain state, as I’m not sure if or when I’ll be put back on the waiting list. I’ve been waiting for my surgery for over two years now and it keeps getting put back, it’s really had a bad effect on the way I view things.”
It often takes years for trans people to be approved for gender affirming healthcare through the NHS. The process involves numerous meetings with healthcare professionals before any medical options are offered. There are private clinics such as the London Transgender clinic that have shorter wait times, although many people cannot afford the costs of private healthcare.
The Nottingham Centre for Transgender Health estimates that patients face a wait in excess of two and a half years after being referred to their service due to extremely high demand for care.
According to a Freedom of Information request sent to the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, their clinic alone received 3101 adult referrals, and 449 referrals for young people from June 2018 to June 2019.
Eva Echo, a trans advocate and Ambassador for the London Transgender Clinic, says the current situation is ” both frustrating and heart-breaking for many in the trans community”
“But it is just that: a moment. Trans people are strong…we’ve survived the internal struggle inside our own heads, mental health issues and a lot of soul searching to be where we are today, waiting for treatment.
Given that most of us have waited our whole lives to get to this point, a few more months won’t make any difference in the grand scheme of things. In the meantime, we belong to a community that accepts and supports us unconditionally.”
A twitter thread posted by Harry Josephine, a writer and performer from Scotland, explained in detail how trans healthcare within the NHS has been impacted by coronavirus.
Examples include delays and cancellations of surgery dates, and uncertainty surrounding prescriptions for those who are already receiving hormone treatment. These hormones must be injected and it is now extremely difficult to access healthcare professionals to complete this procedure.
“Whilst GICs are doing all they can, private healthcare providers such as London Transgender Clinic are on hand to offer advice to those in need.” Says Eva.
“I’m also on hand to help people who reach out via my blog or Instagram, and I know there are many others like me too. The most important thing is to not keep it inside. If anyone is struggling, then please talk and please reach out.”