The New Brunswick Transgender Health Network has confirmed a meeting with Health Minister Victor Boudreau on September 10 to discuss the funding of gender reassignment surgery.
PEI announced public funding of gender reassignment surgery earlier this year, making New Brunswick the only province to not provide coverage for the surgery.
Transgender activists and allies in New Brunswick have been busy mobilizing for health care rights in 2015.
In response to hateful comments posted under a CBC story on Aug. 28 about the upcoming meeting with the Health Minister, AJ Ripley with TransAction NB responded with both humour and serious myth debunking in videos on Facebook.
“For people like me who are born with genitals that the doctor called female… I never felt connected to femaleness my entire life. I never felt connected to maleness my entire life. I am figuring out my gender as I am figuring out who I am,” said Ripley.
In response to one commentator who complained about gender reassignment surgery when his wife has to wait three years for breast reconstruction surgery after cancer treatment, Ripley said, “I’m not mentally ill. I was sick and oppressed before but now I’m mentally together. All I am asking for is to have my breasts removed by the government. It would cost you pennies.”
Ripley empathized with the situation of the commentator’s wife, calling the wait time ridiculous. Ripley encouraged the man to take political action and to get a meeting with the Health Minister to discuss the problem.
Erin Fredericks, a professor of sociology at St. Thomas University, remarked on the contradictory nature of the government of New Brunswick’s messages that encourage people to stay and work in the province while denying health care access to transgender people.
“Did you know that brilliant young trans people are leaving the province because of transphobic policies and culture, contributing to out migration of our workforce? Did you know that jobs matter, but people matter more? Get it together, NB,” says Fredericks.
Health Minister Victor Boudreau’s statements in a Telegraph-Journal story on July 16th was called “an example of ignorance and transphobia” by Reproductive Justice NB. The Minister said he supported a doctor’s choice to refuse treatment for gender dysphoria because of their personal beliefs.
“Minister Boudreau’s statements support for discriminatory practices perpetuates intolerance in society, which contributes directly to the high rate of suicide attempts among transgender people. This is a critical issue that needs immediate attention and greater effort on the part of the Health Minister, as well as the rest of the medical community,” stated RJNB.
Before the hateful comments appeared on the CBC story, Fredericks posted a message to her trans and cis friends on Facebook:
“To my trans friends, Over the next few months, your lives will be a topic of discussion in NB. Although it shouldn’t be this hard, this has to happen for change. Some cis people are going to say ignorant, hateful, terrible things. For that, I am sorry. Please take care of yourselves and take care of each other.
To my cis friends: This is the time to use the privilege we have to drown out this ignorance and hate. Do not let your fear of saying the wrong thing keep you from speaking up. Educate yourself, get involved, respond to media comments, like and share posts, write letters, and attend events. Change can’t happen without our voices joining in this fight.”
A petition for the province of New Brunswick to fund gender confirmation surgeries has been signed by more than 1,300 supporters.
Tracy Glynn is on the board of the NB Media Co-op.