Trans Hamiltonians may soon see an increase in healthcare quality, as city council drafts a letter of recommendations for Local Health Integration Network, the board of Hamilton Health Sciences and St. Joesph’s Healthcare to improve regional healthcare for trans and gender non-conforming folk in the area.

The LHIN is in charge of fund allocation for the area, and the latter boards are in charge of daily aspects of healthcare in Hamilton.

The initial motion, put forward by ward 1 and 3 councillors Aidan Johnson and Matthew Green, calls for the mayor to send an initial letter to the LHIN for advice, and to consult with other groups such as the Hamilton Trans Health Coalition for advice on the contents of the letter.

Cole Gately, co-chair of the HTHC, has high hopes for the letter, considering its institutional support.

“When the mayor of an entire municipality is asking the LHIN asking for support and advice about increasing the capacity of healthcare for trans people in Hamilton, it’s pretty significant,” Gately said.

The letter is set to be sent out on Nov. 20, 2017, the Transgender Day of Remembrance, a date which commemorates the trans and gender non-conforming folk who have died as a result of transphobia.

In addition to higher murder rates, trans and gender non-conforming people are at a higher risk of suicide, with one study finding 43 per cent of participants with a history of attempted suicide due to the constant discrimination many faced.

The same study also found that many trans and gender non-conforming people actively avoid healthcare due to being trans or gender non-conforming, with 21 per cent of participants forgoing emergency healthcare due to their previous experiences with the healthcare system.

Currently, the local community has done its part to unofficially fill the gaps in the current healthcare system. The HTHC, Gately’s organization, is one of the main organizations within the city which aims to connect trans and gender non-conforming individuals in the city to healthcare workers able to sufficiently give care and offer information and resources to those in healthcare who wish to improve their care.

Some of the main challenges within trans healthcare equity include, but are not limited to, long wait times, lack of information and refusal of care by healthcare professionals.

Gately argues that trans health equity is as simple as educating physicians on basic aspects of transitioning and basic cultural competency. Gately stressed the importance of all physicians being knowledgeable on trans healthcare, thus allowing individuals to access healthcare without outing themselves as trans or gender non-conforming in the way going to a specifically trans healthcare centre would.

“It’s not so much opening a clinic or a centre, it’s more like providing education and support to physicians all across Hamilton to learn how to give good healthcare [to trans and gender non-conforming patients],” Gately said.

Hamilton has, in recent months, has made strides in supporting trans and gender non-conforming folk in the city. In March 2017, city council voted to implement a citywide protocol aiming to protect trans people in Hamilton.

Some aspects of the protocol include protecting the rights of trans folk employed by the city and recommendations on creating an inclusive environment.

“We are the only municipality that has a policy and protocol around trans clients using services and trans employees of the city, and so we’re pretty on the leading edge of this,” said Gately. “It’s not something [the LHIN] can ignore.”

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