A transgender woman has expressed her frustration with New Zealand's public health system as she continues in her long and drawn out battle to access gender-affirming surgery.
The thought of waiting 10 years or more to "start living her life" is "absolutely terrifying", Shiyi Redpath said – but it's a reality many are facing.
While rebates are available, there's currently a waitlist of about 400 people in New Zealand, Ms Redpath told Yahoo News Australia, with only a handful of procedures being undertaken each year — just nine in 2022. The Wellington woman joined the waitlist in late 2019, around the time she started hormone replacement therapy, and she's tired of waiting, she said.
"I have kind of always known, even while I was growing up as a kid, that I was trans, even if I didn't always have the language to describe that," she told Yahoo News Australia. And while her journey so far has been "life-changing", she's ready for more.
Raising funds for pricy procedure overseas
More than four years on, the 33-year-old is no closer to receiving the surgery — which in Australia is not publically funded. This is because of soaring demand and a shortage of trained surgeons across the country. Ms Redpath said there's only one doctor in New Zealand who can do it, prompting many trans people to look for alternative options, including travelling overseas.
The procedure in Thailand — where Ms Redpath is looking to get it done — will set her back as much as A$22,000, and despite working full-time she can't afford it so is hoping to raise funds online.
"I'm tired of waiting for our public health system in NZ to catch up, and the idea of waiting on a list for 10+ years is absolutely terrifying to me," she wrote on her Give A Little page. She said she's "tried to get a solid response from the hospitals" regarding wait time, but gets a "vague response" in return.
Push for Australia to take transgendered community 'seriously'
In Australia, the same procedure can cost between $20-$100,000 and not having government funding "absolutely impacts on the mental health of gender-diverse transgender people", Clinical Psychologist Laura Rizzuto told Yahoo.
Mental health issues are already "staggeringly higher" in the transgendered community than the wider Australian population, she said, but this is "exacerbated by not having access to gender-affirming health care".
While the situation in New Zealand still presents its own challenges, Dr Rizzuto, who works with Unboxed Pride, said "it’s a step in the right direction" and we in Australia "really need to take it seriously".
Anti-trans protests in Australia ahead of NZ tour
This week, conflict between trans and anti-trans protesters erupted as controversial British activist Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull continues her 'Let Women Speak' tour in Australia before heading to New Zealand.
Following the chaotic scenes at her rally in Melbourne last weekend, Immigration NZ said it would review her travel to the country and potentially stop her from entering, a decision they ultimately did not make.
The Melbourne rally saw an ugly clash between protesters. Among them was a group of neo-Nazis who performed the salute while carrying signs calling transgender people offensive names.
The anti-trans activist, also known as Posie Parker, and founder of the group Standing for Women, claims she's advocating for women's safety but opponents accuse her of spreading misinformation and hate against transgender people. Her rallies have attracted larger counter-protests by pro-LGBT activists.
In Canberra on Thursday, Senator Lidia Thorpe attempted to confront the British activist who was holding an event outside the parliament building. Video shows Ms Thorpe approaching Ms Keen screaming "you're not welcome here" before appearing to be pulled to the ground by police.
Officers attempted to get her back on her feet but Ms Thorpe shouted "let me go", before breaking free and crawling away across the wet grass, and then standing up and walking off.
On Wednesday, it was announced Ms Keen-Minshull will be allowed to stage rallies in New Zealand this weekend after immigration officials decided the firebrand campaigner is not a risk to public safety.
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