Kimberly Macdonald is an attractive young woman with a good job. Like most women in her early twenties, she's flirtatious, funny and happens to do a killer Amy Winehouse impression.
And like most people in their early twenties, Macdonald was expecting to live part of her life in debt. But her debt wouldn't be due to student loans or a mortgage---her monetary woes were much more personal. Kim was planning on having to spend over $25,000 to go out of province to undergo sexual reassignment surgeries (SRS). Sexual reassignment surgeries cover a broad band of procedures that can be applied to either feminize or masculinize one's appearance. The costs of these surgeries vary, from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. And that doesn't cover the post-surgery care, or the travel expenses to have these surgeries done, because these procedures are performed out of province, usually in Quebec or Ontario.
It is worth noting that not all people who identify as trans*---with the asterisk, trans* is an umbrella term for individuals who do not feel that they are the gender they were labeled at birth, including those who identify as transgender, transsexual, genderqueer, gender variant and more---feel the need for surgical interventions.
In Macdonald's experience, however, she feels that to be a woman she "must look the part." That includes taking hormones which have given her curves, but going under the knife is essential to helping her feel whole.
"It's important to me so I can fully transform and feel the same way inside and out," she says. When the Nova Scotia government announced in June that it would be covering SRS, Macdonald's life changed. "When I first heard, I was shocked, but after a few hours it hit me and I cried for joy," she says.
But the government's announcement is barely a month old, and the infrastructures needed for these services to be provided within Nova Scotia are barely being put into place.
"The department is in the planning stages regarding gender reassignment surgery," says Tony Kiritsis, media relations advisor for the Department of Health and Wellness. "More information on these and other details will be released at a later date when they have been worked out and confirmed."
At this time, the number of services, support staff and surgeons required for these procedures have yet to be determined. "Part of the issue is that we don't know what is going to be covered," says Anita Keeping, a nurse specialist with prideHealth, an organization within Capital Health that supports and addresses the health concerns of the rainbow community. prideHealth recently put out a Trans Health Guide to provide both patients and health care practitioners with clear information about the needs and supports of and for those who identify as trans*. But right now, it's a waiting game for everyone to see what will happen next.
"We have no idea whatsoever which surgeries they will perform," says Keeping. "I'm glad the decision was made that it would be covered, but I don't want people to get their hopes up thinking that next month they can get surgery. We're not there yet."
In the meantime, Kimberly Macdonald is patiently hopeful and thankful for the recent decision to fund SRS.
"I know a few people that unfortunately had to put themselves in debt and take out loans to pay for their surgeries," she says. "Most people put that kind of money down to buy a house, so now I have an equal opportunity to be a productive member of society by being myself."