Accusing the National Health Service (NHS) in Scotland of ‘blanket banning’ breast enlargement operations for transgender people, activists have said that the demographic is being left in a “distressing” limbo.
NHS psychiatrists currently refer transgender persons who identify as women for the surgery on the same grounds as female-bodied patients with breast problems — that is, that the situation causes them “severe psychological distress”.
But transgender activists complain that while people ‘transitioning’ from female to male are funded centrally for chest ‘reconstruction’, it is local health boards that decide whether to grant breast augmentations to patients who are ‘transitioning’ in the opposite direction.
“It’s really discriminatory at the moment and trans-phobically motivated as far as we can see. It’s the classic thing where it’s not seen as medically necessary but as a lifestyle choice,” said James Morton, manager of the Scottish Trans Alliance.
Describing the rules as “incredibly frustrating”, 55-year-old Becky Kaufmann said it’s important that transgender people get access to breast augmentation because “acceptance in their identified gender – even today – still very much hinges on whether or not we meet classical standards of appearance.
“Yet as a middle aged late transitioning trans woman, after four years on hormones, without enhancements in my chest, I basically look like an overweight middle-aged man,” added the Edinburgh native.
A former prison officer, Kaufmann discovered “by chance” that requests for breast augmentation had been rejected as a result of having a BMI higher than 27.
“Even if I was rejected because of my weight, in any other circumstance the doctor would say ‘you’re overweight, lose some weight, and then you can get the procedure’. I was told nothing. If you don’t tell people the rules of the game, and then they tell you ‘you lose’ before you even found out you’re playing, that’s not fair,” said the 55-year-old, who is now considering paying for implants privately.
Former fireman Eleanor Matthews, who has been rejected for both nose reshaping and breast augmentation by NHS Lothian despite a psychiatrist referral, according to the Daily Record, also said weight was given as the official reason.
But the 61-year-old claimed staff at the local gender identity clinic asserted that NHS Lothian “would not entertain” the idea of breast surgery for transgender people who identify as women.
“I don’t understand the logic to it at all. If you’re a trans woman with asymmetrical breast growth, you don’t get any surgical support, you don’t get any funding,” said Matthews.
“But for a non-trans woman, if a surgical intervention was necessary they would consider funding that. But because I’m a trans woman – no. It’s horrible.”
The accusations come as Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has urged the Prime Minister to allow transgender people to simply “self-identify their gender” rather than having to speak to a doctor and go through the medical checks which are currently required.
“Discrimination has gone on too long. The Gender Recognition Act does not allow trans people to self-identify their gender and forces them to undergo invasive medical tests. This is wrong,” he told an LGBT event, which also saw the Education Secretary state that there are “too many” people who hold traditional views on sexuality.
Demanding that Parliament and the Government “keep on pushing for progress” with regards to LGBT issues, Justine Greening said there were still “too many pockets of communities in the country for whom LGBT rights are a mistake and think things have gone too far.”