I hate going to the doctor. It involves many of my least favorite things: making appointments, waiting in rooms, talking about how I feel, etcetera. But one of the trickier things about accessing health care as a gay (or LGBT+) person is navigating conversations with health care providers. It’s hard to know how the person is going to react when you disclose your identity, and how it will affect the care you will receive. Luckily there have been positive shifts throughout the Maritimes in the systems through which we access care.
A number of gender affirming surgeries have begun to be covered by the province of Nova Scotia in 2015. Additionally, a change to the Vital Statistic Act removed surgical requirements for gender marker changes on identification documents. These changes have made it easier for trans Nova Scotians to access equitable care. The coverage for these surgeries ranges significantly from province to province, and there are continued lobbying efforts in the Maritime provinces to increase the accessibility of these services. Currently, New Brunswick and PEI have limited coverage, while Newfoundland & Labrador has similar coverage to Nova Scotia.
Ongoing consultation surrounding the federal deferral of MSM (men who have sex with men) donors from blood donation has been the catalyst of incremental reduction of this deferral. A lifetime deferral has been reduced to five years, with an open dialogue for further reductions.
Lobbying efforts throughout the Maritimes continue to advocate for a variety of other health issues that LGBT+ people face, including access to mental health care, addictions programming and LGBT+ elder care. These efforts, led largely by volunteer organizations, illustrate the gaps between issues that remain. Creating LGBT+ competent and accessible health care should be an ongoing dialogue – as is the community it reflects.