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LISTEN | In waiting: The long wait for gender-affirming surgery in SA

24 December 2021 - 04:54 By Demi Buzo
One of the pertinent issues trans people face in SA is the inaccessibility to medical treatments and surgeries they require to medically transition due to financial constraints.
One of the pertinent issues trans people face in SA is the inaccessibility to medical treatments and surgeries they require to medically transition due to financial constraints. 
Image: 123RF/Taa22

The trans community in SA remains one of the most marginalised groups of people. One of the pertinent issues they face is the inaccessibility to medical treatments and surgeries they require to medically transition due to financial constraints.  

With excessively long waiting lists at healthcare facilities such as Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital and Groote Schuur Hospital, due to the scarcity of qualified surgeons across the country, which has resulted in somewhat of a monopoly, the chances of one being able to get gender-reassuring surgery and care are often slim.  

Listen:

SA’s public healthcare system is already underfunded and overwhelmed with millions of people reliant on it,lessening the state’s ability to aid the medical needs of the transgender community. Because of the lack of support for trans health in public healthcare facilities, many transgender people turn to the private healthcare system.  

Depending on the specific procedure you may require, which includes top or bottom surgery, which is a four-stage process on its own, one can pay anything from R65,000 to R300,000 for the services of a private doctor.  

Social media platforms and crowdfunding sites have become a popular way to raise the funds needed to complete the process.   

“I didn’t want to do it but I also knew that I had to do it,” says 25-year-old gender advocacy worker and trans woman Priscilla Phumelele Nkomozake, who chose to go the crowdfunding route.  

In many cases the prolonged wait to receive gender reassignment/affirming surgery affects various aspects of one’s life. This has been the case for 24-year-old transgender woman and student Iviwe Mzandisi, who believes the wait for her surgery will have serious effects in terms of her career, her love life, and even family plans. 

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