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Gender Affirming Care on PEI

The Gender Affirming Health Care Clinic on Prince Edward Island has only been in operation for a year, but it’s providing life-saving care.

Dr. Kay Dingwell is one of a handful of PEI physicians who rotate shifts at the Gender Affirming Health Care Clinic. She, and the others involved, have been trying to educate the public about the importance of gender-affirming care and how to be a better ally to the 2SLGBTQ+ community.

“We are talking about a population of people who are often societally and institutionally opposed, villainized, and not accepted,” Dr. Dingwell said. “This has started to improve, but there is still a lot of transphobia out there, including in medicine itself. We need to change that.”

Gender-affirming health services mean caring for, and supporting individuals, while recognizing and acknowledging their gender identity and expression. It’s a simple concept that should be the norm regardless of where a person seeks help, but unfortunately, it’s not. Suicide, severe mental health issues, and substance abuse are still prevalent in the transgender community because of transphobia, gender dysphoria, and an overall general lack of resources and support.

People like Dr. Dingwell and those involved in gender-affirming health services are trying to change that. Aly Inman, Executive Director of the PEI Transgender Network, said those efforts are making a difference.

“There’s still a lot of improvements needed but progress has been made,” Inman said. “Having access to gender-affirming health care can really improve, and even save people’s lives. The Gender Affirming Health Care Clinic gives people hope that someday there won’t be a need for a specialized clinic, and it will just be the norm to provide the same care, support, and respect to everyone.”

June is Pride Month; a time to celebrate the diversity of the 2SLGBTQ+ community, while acknowledging history and raising awareness of the hardships that continue, as well as the progress that has been made. But that isn’t the only time this should happen.

“There is still a significant number of people in crisis and lives continue to be at stake, so we need to talk about this and offer gender-affirming care now and every day,” Inman said. “It can be as simple as showing someone the respect of calling them by their preferred pronouns and name, even if their legal documents don’t reflect it. It is as simple as treating others how you would want to be treated.”

Trained and supportive physicians or nurse practitioners at the Gender Affirming Health Care Clinic provide health care services to the 2SLGBTQ+ community with a focus on those who may want to discuss, explore, or proceed with social transition (which might include coming out, using a different name or pronoun, or using gender-affirming products such as binders or breast forms); medical transition (which might include hormone therapy, hormone blockers, or gender-affirming surgeries); and/or legal transition (which involves legally changing names and gender markers listed on legal documents). While the clinic doesn’t offer all of these services, it does aim to provide education, guidance, and resources to help the patient find the support they need. It also provides education and resources to other health care providers who want to improve their own patients’ care.

The clinic is open on the first and third Wednesday of every month. Intake appointments take approximately 90 minutes, so about four new patients are seen in the mornings, with follow-ups and repeat patients seen in the afternoons. As a result, there is a waitlist of about three months. That said, Dr. Dingwell believes the number of family physicians and nurse practitioners offering gender-affirming health care on their own is increasing on PEI.

“Thankfully, we’re seeing and hearing that more health care providers are willing to learn about gender-affirming care and practice it with their own patients,” Dr. Dingwell said. “We’ve also seen a willingness by the PEI government to put some money into this area of care. These resources are strapped in every province but there’s really no specialized equipment or anything needed besides time and compassion, and it’s worth providing if it means we can significantly change someone’s life for the better.”

Those looking to access the clinic can seek referral through their family physician or nurse practitioner, self-refer by contacting the clinic directly, or connect via the patient navigator.

“Our ultimate goal is to show people they have a safe place to land,” Dr. Dingwell said. “There are clinicians who care. There are clinicians who want to lessen the suffering of this population that’s generally been maltreated over the decades. I hope people come into this clinic knowing we will take good care of them and respect who they are.”

To learn more about gender-affirming health services or to contact the clinic, visit: www.princeedwardisland.ca/en/information/health-pei/gender-affirming-health-services

For the PEI Transgender Network, visit: www.peitn.com