In 2018, it's baffling how vastly underrepresented trans*people are in this country, particularly when it comes to an outdated Irish healthcare system.
In 2015, the Irish Government passed the Gender Recognition bill that grants any trans person over the age of 18 the right to choose their gender identity on their public documents (non-binary and intersex are not included and 16 year olds can apply but it's a taxing process).
Although considered a step in the right direction, trans* people in Ireland are still increasingly struggling to access basic healthcare such as hormone replacement therapy (HRT) that is necessary for many a trans* persons sense of self.
As it now stands, if you are seeking out HRT you must undergo a psychiatric diagnosis and the waiting list is over a year long. If the diagnosis is given, and there's a possibility it may not be, you have to wait another 18 months to see an endocrinologist, a doctor who specialises in hormones. Only two endocrinologists in the country can preside HRT despite every doctor and GP being qualified to do so. One of these endocrinologists requires two separate diagnoses.
If a trans person chooses to undergo surgery, their choices are slim in Ireland. To undergo gender reassignment surgery only one surgeon in the country can perform top surgery, which is a waiting list a number of years long. There are no options available for bottom surgery.
On the 20th of January, a grassroots protest will take place outside Leinster House in the hopes of waking up the Irish Government to the poor medical model that is available. One of the protest organisers Noah Halpin hopes that by protesting against the current medical model a new informed consent model can be introduced:
What we are hoping for, is a move away from the medical/diagnostic model and introduce an informed consent model. We do not need to be psychiatrically diagnosed, we do not need permission to transition. We also want GP education on HRT to be rolled out across the country. Once informed consent is introduced and GP's are willing to prescribe HRT, this will completely abolish waiting lists for all trans/non binary people.
Halpin hopes that children are included in the proposal for basic healthcare and that specific gender identity clinics can be introduced. Halpin's activism started after struggling to access medical care during his own transition and knows many trans people in Ireland who face this daily battle:
Personally, for me, I have been fighting for HRT for a year and a half now, with no sign of an appointment coming any time soon. I was initially told that the waiting list was 6months long. Well, a year later, I've not been seen and the list has now extended to 18months long due to the consultant constantly cancelling clinics. I have not even seen the psychiatrist for a "diagnosis" yet, as his waiting list is of similar length.It's almost impossible to make contact with either of these professionals, but the one time I was lucky in December, I was told that the endocrinologists office never received my referral from the psychiatrist - a whole year earlier! An administrative failure meant that i have not been on the waiting list for the past year, like I was lead to believe. I am trying to get this sorted now, but again, its impossible to get through to the office. It isn't the first time I've heard of this happening.
Surgery wise, I must go to Poland and pay privately for top surgery. The list here, with the one surgeon, is impossibly long. I am currently saving and fundraising for this. The waiting, the constant need to prove myself, the huge amount of hoops I have to jump through and the system that is constantly delaying my healthcare, has been massively mentally tolling, physically tolling and at times, can feel absolutely hopeless.I understand why so many trans people are forced to obtain hormones from alternative sources. People are dying because of these short comings, but despite numerous correspondences with them, they refuse to acknowledge the backward, outdated and woefully substandard treatment being offered.
Education is very important, self education, attending workshops... Know our struggles and help us to overcome them. Activism is so important...get out there and support trans issues! Attend events and support your friends. If you can't make an event, even just share it! And stand up for any prejudice, injustice or hate speech you may hear. Being an ally is all about knowing and supporting. And there are so many ways to do that!
The protest will begin on 2pm, Saturday January 20th, with protestors meeting at Merrion Square West, Dublin, for a briefing. From there, there will be a march up to Leinster House with speakers outside Leinster house.
To find out more about the protest click here.
***Trans* is used in this context to encompass both binary and non-binary trans* people.