So this post is going to be kind of cryptic, because I really, really don’t want to ID the people involved. Partly because it’s nobody else’s business, partly because I’ve picked up on something I’m sure was not what was meant.
Someone I know came out as trans recently. They’ve been questioning for ages, but finally hit that ‘ohhh’ moment where it kind of clicks into place. Even more recently (duh) they have got themselves on the waiting list for a gender identity clinic.
(These are specialist clinics where you go to get access to transition treatment, known simply as GICs.)
This person announced the new development, and happily lots of people clustered round to offer hugs and support. (Woo!) The waiting list at their ‘local’ clinic is about a year. So, in a year, they’ll get to actually see somebody about it all.
(There’s about seven GICs in the entire country so local is putting it very, very, very loosely. As a comparison, Houston is local to Dallas compared to, say, New York City.)
But one remark stuck out to me.
One comment fucking hurt.
And I am sure this is not what the commenter meant, and I’m sure they are genuine in their support for this mutual friend.
But my God, did I want to shake them and scream in their face.
Their comment (and I will not directly quote because, as I said, I really don’t want to ID them) was that the waiting list is needed.
As in, for the patient to figure it all out before they get there.
As in, it’s a good thing the first appointment is twelve months away, because this mutual friend will need that time to get it all sorted out in their head anyway.
Even worse, this was not the only comment along these lines. Others include the wait will be beneficial and after all, it’s a big change.
I mean, you do realise that’s a middle finger salute to the hundreds of people who’ve been psychologically tortured by the waiting lists in for UK GICs, right?
You do realise that many of us have bankrupted ourselves going private because we won’t receive any actual help within two years, minimum?
You do realise that people have committed suicide waiting for treatment here, right?
You do fucking realise that it takes seven years to transition on the NHS, right?
Absolutely fucking not.
No-no-no-no-no. Do not, do not, excuse the torture of patients on those waiting lists for years because hey, they need time to figure it out.
Most people going to a GIC already figured it out.
Like seriously, this is not an early step. Most people have already been talking to therapists for years. Most people already have a good idea of what they need to feel better, to be okay again. Most people are going to the GIC because they think (wrongly, actually) that this is the only damn way to access treatment.
And those who don’t? The first person you see in a GIC is a psychiatrist. And guess what their job is? To help you figure it out. To make sure you’re set on this, you’re not going to regret anything, that you’re giving yourself the best shot at happiness and health again.
Some GICs are actually famous for stalling you at the psychiatrist stage. Some psychiatrists are so binary-blind and focused that you have to be super hyper feminine or masculine to get what you need (because obvs no trans woman ever likes wearing football strips, and no trans man has ever thought their toenails look awesome painted blue). A friend’s girlfriend was stuck for two years at the psychiatrist level, not even allowing her access to hormone therapy, because she didn’t experience dysphoria from her deep, manly voice.
Can you imagine waiting for a physiotherapist for two years because you need time to figure out your knee pain hurts? Can you imagine waiting four years to see an endocrinologist about your pre-diabetes? Can you imagine being told, ‘Yes, you may have an appointment with the severe depression counsellor, but her waiting list is two and a half years and we can’t offer you any support while you wait to be seen, but it’s alright, you need time to figure out if this is affecting you.’
Do not fucking tells trans people that their torture on waiting lists is okay.
And you think I’m exaggerating by torture?
This is what being on a GIC waiting list entails:
You are left to rot. There is no support. There is no communication. There is exactly nothing waiting to help you while you wait to be helped. You are left to hurt and cry and die.
You can’t admit you have mental health needs, like anxiety or depression, because that endangers your treatment. You can’t admit even to your GP that you’re struggling, because they might tell the GIC, or might even refuse to help you because you’re the GIC’s problem now. You have to sit there, in silence, waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting, to be helped with something you probably already know to be true.
I went private for my surgery, because I was refused ‘permission’ (no, seriously, that’s how this treatment works) to undertake transition in the order I needed it. I am still financially unstable thanks to that. I then flat-out told the GIC I would not sit and die on their waiting lists—because I would have done—and was allowed to seek hormone therapy without their involvement. (Like, you know, I should have been able to do anyway, like any other patient with a hormone problem in the whole country.) I still had to wait six months from surgery to getting that very first shot—and in those six months, I attempted suicide twice, and had three mental breakdowns.
All whilst going to work (I can’t afford not to), keeping my mouth shut (I couldn’t afford to have the possibility of help taken away from me) and pretending I was completely fine.
And that was just six months.
I knew I was trans before I ever told a single medical professional. And I am not remotely unusual. So for someone to have asked for a GIC referral—hey, guess what! They probably already know!
And if they don’t, they’ll have all the time in the world once they’re at the GIC to figure it out with the help of the psychiatrist!
Those of us who do know are being fucking tortured in this limbo between the GP and the GIC, held on ice and terrified to admit to needing more than a vague promise of an appointment maybe 12 months, 18 months, 2 years, 3, FOUR YEARS if you’re unlucky enough to live near Leeds.
And why is this bad?
Because who fucking cares about trans people suffering and dying on these lists? They can get seen eventually. It’s not cancer. They’ll be fiiiiiine.
Yeah. That’s why.
Trans people are dumped off as whogivesafuck citizens because hey, it’s all in our heads and we need time to sort it all out first. So it’s okay to do that to us. It’s okay to make us wait years to even see a psychiatrist (never mind, by the way, that actual medical transition is going to take you years on top of that because you’ll spend the first six months just proving you’re not batshit or a special snowflake to the psychiatrist) because heeeey, we need that time.
We had that time. We had that time all the way running up to booking a GP’s appointment to get referred to a GIC in the first place. What do most of us need by the time we ask to go to the GIC?
Help. To. Transition.
And it’s comments like this that enable that torture. Because some people have not got it down 100% before they hit the psychiatrist’s office, all of us must be tortured on these waiting lists, and killed. All of us don’t know what we want, and must be forced to explain it over and over and over, and live months and years longer in the wrong bodies, with the wrong faces, in the wrong voices. And that wait, that lack of the system’s ability to help, is killing us.
And if you don’t believe me?
Come and meet me sometime. Come to a con, come to a pride parade, hell, rock up in my town and ask to share a coffee.
And I’ll show you the scars. I’ll show you the road outside my GP surgery. And I’ll show you the bridge over the railway line, where I sat for three hours wondering if I could make it six months until a doctor would deign to see me. I will show you the space in my bathroom where the pills used to be, that I had ready to go on the day they authorised my access to hormones.
Because if they hadn’t, that very day, I would have gone home and made a third attempt.
We don’t need time anymore.
We need a solution.