“The fact that so many people care so deeply about this issue has been so inspiring.”
The first thing Janet Macbeth wants people to know about her is that she is a loving and dedicated wife and mother. She and her family care deeply for their Southwestern Ontario community. She is passionate about her career. And she is trans.
For Janet, being trans hasn’t always been an aspect of her identity that she has been open about. For many years, shame, fear and anger prevented her from coming out to those around her. “I was dealing with a lot of dysphoria and unhealthy coping tendencies,” says Janet. “Eventually, it got to the point where I just couldn’t take it anymore. I realized I wasn’t living my healthiest life.”
In 2017, with her health and well-being at stake, and with the support of her immediate family, Janet decided to begin the long and often onerous process of openly transitioning. Due to a lack of accessible, timely and compassionate care, Janet had to drive nearly two hours to attend medical appointments with the nearest doctor capable of guiding her transition—just one example of the glaring gaps that exist in healthcare for many trans Canadians.
After coming out to family, friends and the community around her, as well as over a year of hormonal therapy mandated by the Ontario government, Janet finally received approval for the life-changing vaginoplasty—a surgery that constructs a vagina for trans patients—she had long been awaiting.
At the time of her approval in spring 2018, a private clinic in Montreal was the only place performing these complex surgeries in Canada, requiring expensive and time-consuming travel. Hoping to find a surgeon closer to home—where she could be closer to her support network of friends and family and have easier access to the follow-up care she would need—Janet began searching for other options.
Soon she heard that Women’s College Hospital had recently launched its Transition-Related Surgery (TRS) Program—the first at a Canadian public hospital. Janet reached out for more information and while the program was still in development, the team kept her up-to-date when they could.
Finally, at the end of 2018, after months of patiently waiting, Janet received the news she had been waiting for: she was being scheduled for surgery. “When I finally received a date, it was magical,” she says. “I had been waiting with this hope of something on the horizon for so long because it was so important to me and all of sudden it became a reality.”
In June, the TRS team, working alongside Dr. Marci Bowers, world-renowned transition-related surgeon, performed Janet’s vaginoplasty—the first in Ontario in more than two decades.
“This surgery has been such a gift. It’s inspired me to start thinking ‘How can I be healthier? How can I be a better mother and wife?’” says Janet. “I’m so grateful for the level of care I received. The fact that so many people care so deeply about this issue and then, in turn, cared for me has been so inspiring.”
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