As another trans woman shares her personal experiences of navigating the NHS, once again we are reminded of the all too familiar story of years-long waiting lists and the sense of abandonment this brings with it.
NHS Waiting Times for Gender Identity Clinics
On March 14th, 2021, @hypatheticgirl shared her first hand account of what it is to be trans in the UK in a thread on Twitter. You can read the thread here or, for those who are not on Twitter, we have the author’s permission to share her account in full here:
This has been a long time coming, but i feel like now is as good a time as any to get my feelings out there and explain where i’m coming from.
Hi, my name is lauren, I am a 23-year-old trans woman, and I am leaving the UK because being trans here is nigh on impossible.
For the benefit of those overseas, the way to legally medically transition in the UK is your doctor refers you to a “gender identity clinic” (GIC), where, in theory, you’re seen by a specialist, and after a few appointments, you’re allowed HRT (and eventually surgery).
In reality, these NHS clinics have years-long waiting lists just for the first appointment (!!!), some stretching up to half a decade and change. Each appointment is also about a year apart, so in reality you’re waiting far longer than that.
NHS Waiting Lists: How Long Are They for Transgender Patients?
Many transgender people over on r/TransgenderUK have compiled a list of the NHS times. It’s important to note that this data is approximate, but represents a large sample of the community.
|NHS Clinic & Location||NHS Waiting List Time|
|The Nottingham Centre for Transgender Health (Nottingham)||37-41 months|
|Leeds & York Partnership GIS (Leeds)||37-43 Months|
|Exeter (The Laurels)||60 Months|
|Sheffield (Porterbrook)||39 Months|
|Northhampton (Daventry)||43 Months|
|Glasgow (Sandyford)||37 Months|
I was on the clinic’s waiting list for five years. from the ages of 18 to 23 I had to wait as patiently as I could for that letter to come, to see if I’d be any closer to getting on HRT, to surgery, to living dysphoria-free. So, I held out hope that I’d finally be happy.
That letter never came, and to this day I have received no help from the NHS GIC system. I am nearly 24 years old, and I had waited since I was 18.
I discharged myself earlier this year. They clearly have no intention of helping me; why on earth should I play along?
In the face of all this, I DIY’d my estrogen for almost a year, and I’m certainly not the only one that’s done it (can you blame us, if we have to wait half a decade?).
It helped me. My dysphoria was slightly alleviated, and I actually started to feel comfortable in my body.
And then, predictably, the source from which I was procuring my HRT was shut down and no longer exists. My body slowly but surely reverted to how it was pre-HRT, and my dysphoria got much, much worse than it ever has been before.
Add to this, the GIC needs you to have lived in your “acquired gender role” for at least a year before even potentially endorsing hormone therapy. This is on top of the years-long wait for a first appointment, and 2x year-long interim between the first, second and third…
I have no family support and never have done, and I have nobody around me that supports who I am. Presenting as female would potentially put my life in danger, so even if I did get a first appointment with the GIC, I still wouldn’t be ‘trans enough’ for their help.
For your gender to be changed in law, you need to apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC). You have to send in at least two years’ worth of documents to a panel of individuals who have never met you, and to whom you cannot make your case in person.
This would be impossible given my current situation. there are approximately half a million trans people in the UK, and yet only ~4,500 GRCs have been issued. Most trans people either do not or cannot apply for them, and many applications are rejected.
The government have also stepped back from their earlier commitment to reform the system to make it easier for trans people to navigate.
In a nutshell, as things stand, I would most likely live and die legally male.
And this isn’t even getting into all the anti-trans groups that have sprung up in the last few years, with bogus claims of trans people “erasing women”, with some of their proponents contending the “trans agenda” is bankrolled by George Soros…
…and you may think that’s crazy, and you’d be absolutely right, but these groups have our government by the proverbials, are given an outlet in the news constantly with almost no trans person ever afforded the right of reply…
One of these groups has been part of a successful (and extremely worrying!) legal attempt to prevent young trans people from accessing puberty blockers, and are now turning their attention to 18-25 year olds, to do goodness knows what.
Oh yeah, that’s my age group.
I am an adult. I pay my taxes. I pay rent and bills. I know the consequences of my own actions. so if I’m mature enough for all that, I should be trusted to legally declare that I am who I say I am, and be able to transition, right?
Judging by the state of trans healthcare in the UK, you’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise.
The UK needs informed consent for trans healthcare and for legal documentation changes, like many other countries already have.
But for the sake of my own wellbeing, I cannot afford to stick around for however many years that would take.
Which brings me to the bottom line of all this.
If i am to live my own life, hear my own name, speak my truth and rid myself of this burden, then I must leave the UK.
I’m not the first person to have tried this. Just a few years ago a woman was granted permanent resident status in New Zealand for this very reason, and given how much worse things have gotten since then, I certainly won’t be the last.
My dysphoria is eating me up inside constantly. It gets worse with every day that passes. It gets harder and more painful to deal with, and I worry if I leave this unaddressed too much longer, it will be too late, too much for me to cope with.
I’m not looking for sympathy, I’m not looking for pity. i just could not keep this inside any longer.
You can share this if you want, because people need to realise just how bad things are here.
And to other British trans people, especially trans women, who have had to go through the GIC system and every stumbling block it puts in your way:
I’m sorry. I wish I could be there fighting alongside you. But I am just not strong enough anymore. I cannot bear it anymore.
Thank you all so much for listening to this. I feel so much happier now that I’ve relieved myself of this burden, now that it’s out there.
All of this is only scratching the surface of what it’s like to be trans in the UK, but I hope this was informative.
If you have been affected by this post and you would like to speak to a member of the team please contact us via the Help Centre.
Photo by Eric Ward on Unsplash