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March 12, 2018 | by  | in News |
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Possible Gender Affirmation Surgeon Surfaces

A possible new candidate to perform gender affirmation surgery in New Zealand has surfaced, coming as welcome news to the 102 trans people currently on the national waiting list.

Dr Rita Yang can perform both male-to-female and female-to-male gender affirmation surgery (GAS), also known as gender or sex reassignment surgery.

Dr John Kenealy, President of the New Zealand Plastic Surgeons Association, indicated that it might be some time before Dr Yang would be able to practice the surgeries due to the “complex” issues around organising a surgery team.

Additionally, full capacity at District Health Boards (DHBs) around the country means finding a replacement for not only Dr Yang in her region, Auckland, but also the rest of the team from other stretched DHBs, may delay New Zealand’s first GAS surgeon in four years.

Progress on the list has been slow recently, especially with the resignation of the country’s only GAS surgeon, Dr Peter Walker, in 2014.

Currently, the government only funds three GAS surgeries every two years from the special high cost treatment pool. Since 2015, only two surgeries had been funded, with 39 people being added to the waitlist during the same time period.

GAS through the private sector can cost up to $20,000, and often requires trans people to leave the country, making the procedure highly inaccessible for many.

UniQ Victoria Co-President, Erin Page, said the news “is a great step forward for the trans community in New Zealand; for those who need these live-saving surgeries”.

“Many people see GAS as an elective surgery and therefore don’t believe it should be publicly funded. But GAS allows trans people to live their lives openly and happily in a body they feel is theirs.”

“As the number of people coming out as trans grow, and the inevitable demand for trans-specific healthcare grows, it is vital that there is a surgeon in the country who can offer GAS.”

Page also pointed out that although not all trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming people need or want GAS, the service is “imperative” for those that do.

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