COVID-19 pandemic creates new pain for trans community

Steven Low / May 1, 2020

Lucas Chavez is one of many transgender individuals who are having trouble dealing with the aftermath of COVID-19.
(Lucas Chavez)

Lucas Chavez is a transgender man who has been struggling to seek out health services among many other Canadians across the country. Services all over the country have been shut down or limited to an extent due to COVID-19.

Chavez is just one of many in the transgender community who finds this pandemic a difficult situation to navigate through. Just recently, trying to communicate with his doctor has gotten increasingly difficult due to social distancing. 

“She is located in Abbotsford so even without the pandemic it was hard to get to her. It’s been hard to get my prescriptions because the pharmacy is so backed up.” – Lucas Chavez, Transgender Man

Transgender individuals already have a difficult time finding medical professionals who specialize in trans care. According to a survey by the National Centre for Transgender Equality, more than 50 per cent of transgender individuals reported their healthcare providers had a significant lack of knowledge for trans care.

This is why many trans people go to the same doctors for care. Chavez travels an hour to the Abbotsford Youth Clinic to get specialized care, and as doctor care has moved to phone calls or online, it has become more difficult to actually get an appointment.

Before the virus, appointments could be made within a week. However, to even get an appointment through a phone call, there is now a several week wait.

Doctor visits are an important part of the transitioning process for conducting physical examinations. According to one trans individual, if the matter isn’t urgent, they probably won’t see you.

Furthermore, Chavez has been worrying about his prescriptions refills. Trans individuals need specific prescriptions like testosterone or estrogen in order to continue their transitions. These prescriptions are used for hormone replacement therapy and are usually the first step in the transitioning process.

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen a spike in people stocking up on prescriptions. However, health officials have said that there should be enough supply for everyone.

Chavez is also part of a Vancouver transgender community group online, where he has met others with similar concerns.

A major aspect of transitioning put on hold due to the virus is gender-affirming surgeries. These surgeries are an important part of the transitioning process for individuals to truly feel comfortable in their bodies. 

Prescriptions like testosterone are an important part of the transitioning process. Many worry they won’t be able to get their prescriptions due to back ups at pharmacies.
(Lucas Chavez)

“I had an intense month of progress for my surgery, only for it to be cancelled. After years of nothing, I just felt completely crushed and flattened. It took me a couple weeks to accept that was reality and to be okay with being back in that place of not knowing.” – L.J., Transgender Individual.

Explaining the transitioning process

Hard fought battles to get a surgery date, only to have it be cancelled due to COVID-19, has caused many in the community grief and anxiety.

People may think that these surgeries are an insignificant cosmetic thing. However, these surgeries are life-changing. Body dysphoria is a major issue in the transgender community and can cause major mental health problems.

We believe that gender-affirming surgery is an essential and life-saving service and we hope to get back to this important work soon.”Gender Surgery Program B.C.

For the time being, many trans people will be left uncomfortable with the situation they’re in due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but they do have some support. The trans community can also turn to Trans Care B.C. for support, as they work to coordinate health services and support for trans people.

“We’ve adapted our team to provide COVID-19 supports such as psychosocial/peer support calls and virtual health engagements.” – Lorraine Grieves, Provincial Director, Trans Care B.C.

The trans community is no stranger to barriers in healthcare, and COVID-19 is just another one of those barriers they will have to persevere through.