(thanks to AWSM member Sarah for the article and art and Jordyn for agreeing to the interview)
As we celebrate Pride this year it is important to remember Pride’s activist roots and set our sights on the fight ahead. While affluent LGBTQIA+ people are doing fine and being paraded as tokens on television, the rest of us still have unmet needs. Every single kind of queerphobia* is worse for working class people.
Around 40% of unhoused people under the age of 25 are LGBTQIA+ and who knows how many others stay closeted in unsafe family homes because they can’t afford to be kicked out? This is just one of many examples.
I interviewed my friend Jordyn about her experience with one of the most glaring expressions of classist Lgbtqia+-phobia in New Zealand: barriers to trans healthcare access.
Here is the transcript of our interview.
Me: So first of all, what has your overall experience accessing transition-related healthcare been like?
Jordyn: Mostly fine, hormones took an appointment with my GP, then a psychologist four weeks later and then an appointment with an endocrinologist about a month later.
My experience with surgery though has been terrible with NZ currently having around a 20 year wait time for reassignment surgery.
Me:Dang, that’s a ridiculously long period of time.
Is all of this through the public system or did you have to go private?
Jordyn: Yeah and for a lot of us surgery is a life saving treatment.
I was lucky enough that my insurance agreed to cover my endocrinologist costs on a special basis, endocrinologists through the public system in Wellington have a stated 3 month wait time, but a lot of people wait for around 6 months.
Now though all my hormones levels and dosages are managed by me with supervision from my GP
Me: Yeah, that’s far too important to have a 20 year wait time.
Is surgery more accessible to people who can pay out of pocket?
Jordyn: Yeah, we still only have one surgeon in NZ that can do it, but there’s really no wait list if you can pay for it yourself, I think only around 5 people have paid for it themselves since the surgeon has been here.
It’s also overwhelmingly expensive in NZ with quotes for private being minimum $45000 whereas you can go to Thailand and get more modern techniques and extremely experienced surgeons for between $15000-20000
This is for a vaginoplasty, trans male surgery is a lot more expensive but I don’t know much about it.
Me: Yeah, that’s a terribly stark example of class disparity.
I don’t know if there’s anything else to ask.
Thanks for your help getting the facts straight.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Uh I guess that 71% of trans people aged 15 or over have very high levels of psychological distress compared to 8% of the general population, and that in 2019 56% of trans people had seriously considered suicide over the previous 12 months compared to the worldwide average for trans people which I think is around 40%
The needs of trans people in NZ aren’t being met and aside from a small amount of funding the government isn’t really doing much to address transgender issues in regards to access to healthcare and especially surgery which is in an appalling state compared to the rest of the world
Me:Yeah, that’s awful. Seems like they’re basically doing the absolute bare minimum.
-This concluded the interview-
Jordyn’s experience clearly shows that transphobia is always reinforced by classism.
Both the data and our lived experiences leave no doubt – queerphobia is enforced by the state and capital, and any coherent approach to LGBTQIA+ activism must be opposed to both. This is why I am a queer anarchist.
*The word “queer” is a reclaimed slur, and my decision to use it does not reflect the entire community’s opinion on its use.