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Young Labour is seeking to ensure that transgender people have the option to transition using the public healthcare system.
The motion to ensure “the access to hormone replacement therapy and gender reassignment surgery is available and publicly funded” was recently put forward by Young Labour at both its Auckland and Hawke’s Bay regional conferences.
Currently, publicly funded surgery is unattainable for most trans people, with only four surgeries being funded in New Zealand every two years.
The only other option for transgender people to obtain surgery is a high-cost treatment pool that covers lower surgery for both transmen and transwomen.
However, the Government only funds a few surgeries per year through this pathway, and transmen and transwomen are forced to travel to San Francisco and Thailand, respectively, to receive this funded surgery.
The treatment pool does not cover chest surgery for transmen, forcing them to shell out between $12,000 to $16,000 for surgery in New Zealand.
Accessibility to publicly-funded surgery has been tightened in the last few years. Reconstructive chest surgery for transgender men in New Zealand was halted after Waitemata DHB surgeon Dr Wayne Jones, the only surgeon in New Zealand who offered publicly-funded chest surgery, was forced to stop offering the procedure following Government funding cuts to health boards in the 2013 budget.
One 20-year-old transgender student at Victoria, who is currently waiting on private funding through a medical trust for top surgery, discussed his chest-binding with Salient. “Binding causes me immense pain. Most days I cannot breathe, even walking up to uni is a challenge. Lately I have shooting pains down my left side caused by the constriction of my chest”, the student said.
The proposal from Young Labour has not been welcomed by high-ranking Labour MPs, who told Stuff that they do not see transgender people’s health needs as a priority.
Labour leader Andrew Little also caused offense to many in the transgender community by claiming Finance Minister Bill English was hiding his “fiscal gender reassignment” in his post-Budget speech.
Labour’s current policy towards transgender healthcare is based on recommendations featured in the Human Rights Commission’s “To Be Who I Am: Kia Noho au Ki Toku Ano Au” report.
The report outlines measures through which to “ease support for health services for transgender and intersex people, including intersex children, with a focus on an informed consent model”.
The Greens are in favour of improving healthcare for transgender people. The Party’s Rainbow spokesperson Jan Logie held forums last year to discuss ways of improving healthcare for transgender people and recently came out in support of Young Labour’s motion on Facebook. “The waiting list is longer than most people’s life expectancy… [transpeople] feel completely stuck.”
Logie told Salient her party was continuing to push for legislative change in the area of trans rights and mentioned that she had recently started a cross-party LGBTI rights group in Parliament to try and facilitate this.
However, Health Minister Jonathan Coleman dubbed Young Labour’s proposal “nutty” and stated publicly that he disagreed with the proposal.
“We’ve got a lot of priorities in the health system, and I’m quite happy with [the current funding of] four procedures every two years,” Coleman said.
Young Labour’s motion must be approved by the Labour Party caucus before it becomes party policy.