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Has MSP changed policy regarding top surgery for MTF patients in BC?

Sadly, no. Despite the impression given on the final Global news item in their Transformation series, MSP has not changed their policy for MTF patients seeking breast augmentation.

If you’ve been following the Global news series, “Transformation,” likely you, like I, have been impressed with the thoughtful and sensitive treatment the subject of being transgender has been given. At times, I have been deeply moved.

I was interested in the assertion made in the final segment, that MSP was now paying for top surgery for MTF patients. This was apparently change in policy. It turns out there has been no change in policy at all, despite what the reporter tells us. If you’re MTF, MSP will pay for top surgery only if, after a minimum of 18 months on hormones, there is either no breast development or there is significant asymmetry. This policy has been in place for years. If you’re blessed only with minimal development, as I have, we will have to pay for top surgery ourselves. The good news is, at least we can have it done here in BC, provided we can afford it.

Yes, we do have a qualified surgeon here in BC who could also do bottom surgery, but here MSP has changed its policy. It sent Dr. Bowman to Belgium for training. He is qualified and capable, but no, he won’t be granted hospital privileges for bottom surgery anytime soon. This is the second time BC has paid to have a surgeon trained to perform SRS, but subsequently refused him the right to practice. Instead, we will continue to send our patients to Montreal: 44 last year, over 70, this year.

The really bad news? When you go to Montreal for your SRS, you get only 10 days aftercare, then they send you home. You will be in significant pain and discomfort, and there is a very good chance that you may still be bleeding, especially if you’re not yet adept at inserting the stent at just the right angle. The stent has to be inserted for half an hour at a time, every four hours, to prevent the new vagina from healing itself closed, with possible life threatening results.

Imagine finding yourself waiting in the Montreal airport for (how many hours?) and then trying to find a private spot where you can do what must be done, then flying home on the plane…for (how many hours?) When was the last time you flew to Montreal? Did you enjoy your flight? Now imagine doing it when you are already in pain. And how long was that flight again? Here you are in mid-air and it’s time to repeat the procedure again. Where? How? In the airplane’s washroom? Good luck with that. Then home at last.

Well, not quite. You live on the Island. Make your way to the ferry. Wait in line. Wait for the ferry. How many hours has it been? Oops, time to look for a little privacy once again.

Oh, and just to add insult to injury, you will probably be carrying one of those inflatable cushions they use for hemhorroid patients. (Now that’s not embarrassing on the airplane or the ferry, is it? Probably not. You’ll be in so much pain you won’t notice much of anything going on around you.) Suck it up, babe. You’re a woman now. Get used to it.

But Minister of Health Mike De Jong believes SRS patients are better served when we are sent to Montreal. And so we are.

Did I tell you I was looking forward to it?

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About Karen McLaughlin

Hi, I’m Karen, and welcome to my Cornbury blog. This blogging thing is a new adventure for me, but several of my friends have been urging me to keep one for awhile now. I’ll do my best. I hope you will be patient with me when I stumble, but mostly, I hope that this blog will help make this business of being trans a little less weird, maybe a little less scary. If you’re here, there’s a good chance that you, or someone you know, is dealing with the same issues that I have been. (Please note the past tense. I'm very proud of that.) I want to tell you that it’s going to be alright. You hear that? It’s going to be alright. I’m speaking from experience. So who am I to talk? Well, when I started all this, I was a pre-op trans woman in the middle of her RLE, her so-called “real life experience.” While I had lived (almost) full time for several years, in 2010 I finally decided to seek gender reassignment surgery. (Note: the accepted term for this among medical professionals is now gender confirmation surgery–an improvement, to my mind on all kinds of levels.) Whatever we call it, to qualify, one of the hoops that must be jumped is this RLE. That means living full time in female mode; no going back. Before I could apply for surgery, I was required to have lived as a woman for at least 12 months. The reasoning behind this is that by doing so, the applicant, me, in this case, would have a better idea what life would be like, should she decide to press forward. This meant finally coming out to my son and my elderly father, both of whom have been reluctantly supportive. I have been very blessed in this. Others have not been so lucky. Coming out is risky. Living full time is even riskier. A trans friend of mine once remarked, “Being out as trans means laying everything on the table. And you have no idea what you’re going to be allowed to keep.” You can literally lose everything: family, home, friends, colleagues, job, career, savings, pension, everything. I know people who have. But I have not, though I would be lying to say that this has been easy, or that there have not been strains, and deep, deep pain. Still, I have been blessed with an understanding, if not always totally supportive spouse, and with a family that has tried mightily to accept and come to terms with (in their eyes) the loss of a father and the emergence of this new person, Karen, who in her new hormonal adolescence, seems at times a stranger. (A nice one, though, I hope; one they can eventually come to love.) What I have discovered through all this, is that while the journey into Mordor is long and fraught with danger, it is filled with unexpected beauty and joy as well. Since coming out, (to everyone, family included,) I have been accepted, even loved, by people I never expected would be on my side, and in places I never expected (or thought) to go. In the past few months I have joined an all women’s Latin dance class, sung female tenor in a wonderful choir, learned basic silversmithing, (I make my own jewelry! How cool is that?), and surrounded myself with wonderful friends. I was supported by an amazing counsellor, (alas, recently retired), who connected me with a speech therapist who specializes in teaching feminine voice. (It has taken time, but it’s coming! I can hardly believe it!) And I have discovered that the future is not a road to be travelled, but a landscape to be constructed. The world I live in is one that I am building for myself, and you can do it, too. This one is a world filled with color, with love, and with joy, and for the first time in my life, I feel whole and totally alive. And the voice in my heart tells me, “This is soooo right! And about time, too!”

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