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Ontario Will Make It Easier For Trans People To Get Gender-Affirming Surgery

But actually getting the surgery will remain a challenge.

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In what's being called a historic day, the Ontario government has announced changes that should reduce the wait time for transgender patients to access surgical procedures.

Dr. Eric Hoskins/Twitter / Via Twitter: @DrEricHoskins

As it currently stands, there's only one place in the province to get a referral for gender-affirming surgery: Toronto's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).

Those paying out of pocket can seek private care elsewhere, but for provincial insurance coverage, patients must go through CAMH. That has resulted in a massive two-year waiting list just to get that referral.

However, Health Minister Eric Hoskin announced Friday that "all qualified health care providers" will be able to provide a referral starting in early 2016.

"Every Ontarian has the right to be who they are," said Hoskins, in a statement. "Our health care system should reflect this vision, which is why we are improving access to gender-affirming surgery."

"It was an historic day for trans health and access as well as social inclusion of trans people in Ontario society," Susan Gapka, a political and community organizer, told BuzzFeed Canada.

via Susan Gapka

Gapka said that when she came out 15 years ago, the province had cut it's support for gender-affirming surgery. The changes that have taken place between then and 2015 are significant, but she said there's still work to be done.

Gender-affirming surgeries are performed out of province, typically in Montreal. Patients who manage to get their referral just end up on another long waiting list, not to mention the prospect of travel costs.

"Not only is there a gatekeeping bottleneck just to be assessed for the procedures, but there’s another bottleneck in acquiring the surgeries," said Gapka.

Gapka said there's also room for improvement in pre- and post- surgery care, especially when it comes to mental health.

.@Glen4ONT say trans people have broken down the binary of gender. Now that hard work is "paying dividends" #onpoli

"Trans people have high rates of suicide and mental health issues but also they're also underemployed, underhoused and [have less] access to the social determinants of health," she said.

"Whatever we can do to make that access more modern and streamlined is a positive step forward."

Lauren Strapagiel is Managing Editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Toronto, Canada.

Contact Lauren Strapagiel at lauren.strapagiel@buzzfeed.com.

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