June 13, 2013
By The Chronicle Herald
The French have a phrase for it: “Être bien dans sa peau” — to be
happy with oneself, to be comfortable in one’s own skin.
We’ve all experienced the opposite of that feeling, a sense of
discomfort that might be akin to what a transgender person feels, day
in, day out, as he or she struggles to make sense of being physically
one gender, but intellectually, psychologically and emotionally
Says Nova Scotia’s Parker Jackson, 21, born a girl but longing, by age
7, to be a boy:
“Imagine waking up every day and you’re just, like, ‘Ugh, this is not
right — I don’t even understand myself,’ — that is how it feels,” said
Jackson, now in the process of becoming a man.
The road to changing one’s gender is long and difficult, involving
counselling, hormone therapy, and for some, surgery.
Health Minister Dave Wilson, however, said this week that the
Department of Health will pay for sexual ressignment surgery after
years of lobbying by, among others, the Nova Scotia Rainbow Action
Project. Nova Scotia is the eighth province to pay for the surgery,
with only New Brunswick and P.E.I. refusing to fund it.
From six to eight Nova Scotians undergo the surgery each year, says
Kevin Kindred of the coalition. Surgery costs from $30,000 to $60,000
It’s a welcome move for people seeking surgery, many of whom are young
and ill-equipped to pay huge medical bills in the treatment of what
physicians term gender identity disorder.
“When you think about it, it’s a condition that, if people were able
to get the hormones and the surgeries that they needed and were ready
to accept, then this condition could effectively be cured,” nurse
Anita Keeping of Capital Health’s Pride Health said in 2011.
The surgery, which has been performed in Halifax in the past, will
take place at the QEII Health Sciences Centre.
“We can no more choose our gender than we can choose our height,” she
said in a 2003 interview.
Experts say people who don’t get therapy are at higher risk for drug
use, other mental health problems or suicide.
Wilson had written the coalition recently to say the province wouldn’t
pay for the service but, like the gay-lesbian- bisexual- transgender
community itself, we applaud the province for reversing its decision
and deciding to pay for the treatment, here at home, needed by this
group of Nova Scotians.