Prince Edward Island remains the only province in Canada that doesn’t cover gender reconstructive surgery, and that policy has left one Islander feeling frustrated, after he opted for the only surgery he could afford, but one that he says left him feeling disfigured.
Jay Gallant, 36, had long felt like he was trapped in a body that wasn’t own, born a girl but feeling more like a man. After finally realizing he was transgender, Gallant decided two years ago to begin to transition to male. He started to take hormone therapy and looked into having gender re-assignment surgery.
But he soon learned P.E.I doesn’t cover that surgery. When he spoke to government health officials, they told him the province covers surgery to remove genitals and mastectomies to remove breasts.
“They thought that was gender re-assignment surgery, but they’re mistaken,” Gallant told CTV’s Your Morning from Charlottetown.
Proper surgery would have included rebuilding his genitals to the opposite gender. It would have also meant rebuilding a masculine chest and saving Gallant’s nipples.
Because that kind of surgery is not covered by the province, Gallant would have needed $10,000 for the full surgery – money he didn’t have.
“For me, knowing I couldn’t afford to have the proper surgery done nor could I just move to another province, I was placed in a very difficult position,” Gallant said.
Gallant decided in January, 2017, to go ahead with a simple mastectomy, because he was feeling so much psychological pain from living with a body that didn’t feel like his – a condition called gender dysphoria.
“…It got to the point where I had to make a decision, where I had to do the best with what I had,” he explained.
The surgery has left Gallant with a flat chest and no nipples, and while he’s glad to be rid of his breasts, he still feels disfigured.
Gallant doesn’t want any other transgender Islander to have to face the same decision, so he’s now campaigning with the P.E.I. Transgender Network and Peers Alliance to compel the province to cover gender re-assignment procedures.
He met with the minister of health last June, showing officials research that details why re-assignment surgery is so important. He says he was told to expect an update by October, but says he has heard nothing.
“There has been very little communication back with us,” he said.
When CTV News asked the P.E.I. Health Ministry for comment, they responded: “The province has been reviewing its policy on Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS) procedures and exploring options to improve access for Islanders. Plans are currently being developed to expand coverage for SRS in the Province of Prince Edward Island. We anticipate coverage will be expanded in the coming months.”
Gallant says that would be wonderful, but in the meantime, he says people have been coming to him to ask him what they should to do. He tells them to wait a little longer until a decision is made.
“Having been in that situation myself, I know that’s no easy task. The suffering, the psychological struggles that can happen can have a serious impact on an individual’s quality of life. So it’s very difficult to tell people to just wait,” he said.