Dozens of trans people in Iceland are still on the waiting list for gender affirmation surgery, Vísir reports, some having waited since 2020, in large part due to these procedures simply not being considered a priority by Landspítali hospital, despite years-long medical research confirming the contrary.
The coronavirus pandemic has necessitated Landspítali to delay or forego numerous procedures that the hospital does not consider to be essential, and has considered gender affirmation surgery to be a category of medical procedure to delay. However, studies ranging from the American Psychological Association, the Boston University School of Public Health, the World Professional Association for Transgender Health and numerous others have confirmed for years that such surgeries are, for many trans people, essential, medically necessary, and greatly improve the quality of life for those trans people who do experience gender dysphoria.
Furthermore, not all gender affirmation surgery procedures need to be performed at Landspítali itself; many of them can be, and are, outsourced to private clinics in Iceland, albeit under the auspices of Landsítali staff, such that the lack of bed space at the hospital need not be a factor–in fact, some of these surgeries are outpatient, wherein those undergoing the surgery can return home the same day of the procedure.
In response to a series of questions sent to Landspítali by Vísir, the hospital confirmed that there are as of last December 13 individuals waiting to receive mastectomies, 18 individuals waiting on vaginoplasty, and one waiting on phalloplasty. Bear in mind that some individuals may be waiting on more than one procedure.
While Landspítali says the waiting times for these procedures are normally anywhere from two weeks to 10 months, they confirmed that this does not apply to those who have entered the waiting list in 2020 or 2021, on account of the pandemic. Indeed, there are trans people who entered the waiting list in 2020 who are still waiting to even receive a date for their surgery, let alone undergo the procedure.
“It is incredibly difficult to put your life on hold,” Ugla Stefanía Kristjönudóttir Jónsdóttir, the chair of Trans Ísland, told reporters, pointing out that there are trans people who have been avoiding going to the gym, the swimming pool, and engaging in other activities that many Icelanders enjoy because they have not received these surgeries yet.
“We naturally want the director of Landspítali and others to look into this,” Ugla says. “We have also spoken with the trans team at Landspítali that oversees this treatment, and they’re also worried about this long waiting period. This is partly a matter of this service being taken seriously. There has been little funding and not much prioiritising for this service, and it has become apparent now with COVID and other factors that these services are swept under the rug and we’re just not being considered.”
Full disclosure: The reporter also sits on the board of Trans Ísland.
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