“I want to experience my life as the man I see myself to be”
“I want to experience my life as the man I see myself to be”: How Women’s College Hospital has helped Kevin to be himself and live his truth.
From the time he was a young child, Kevin knew he should have been born in a male body. “I always knew I had been given the wrong gender at birth,” he says. “and I always wanted others to see me how I see myself – for who I am and not who they want me to be.”
But, growing up in Jamaica, where transgender individuals face significant stigma and discrimination, Kevin was forced to hide his identity until seven years ago, when he made the life-changing decision to seek asylum in Canada. Shortly after arriving, he was referred to Women’s College Hospital’s Transition-Related Surgeries (TRS) Program – the first program of its kind at a Canadian public hospital.
Launched in 2019, the TRS Program is filling major gaps in access to equitable healthcare for trans individuals. Previously, individuals seeking gender-confirming surgeries were forced to undergo procedures at private clinics – a costly option that may lead to postoperative complications due to a lack of rigorous accountability, safety measures and access to appropriate follow-up care for patients.
Offering affordable, compassionate and timely care, the TRS Program offers a comprehensive range of surgical services – many of which are covered by provincial insurance – within the safe, inclusive environment of an academic hospital.
For Kevin, connecting with the TRS team was a major part of his medical transition and a huge step towards finally being able to openly live as a man. “The moment I came to Canada, I was able to start using my male name,” he says. “But my breasts continued to hide who I am, and I wanted to remove them so I can live my life and be free.”
While “top” surgery, or removal of the breasts, is covered by OHIP, contouring – the process of masculinizing the chest following breast removal – is not.
When Kevin first found out that he would need to pay out-of-pocket for the costs of contouring, he was worried he may have to wait even longer to fulfill his dream. Having lost his job in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, he wasn’t sure he would be able to afford the procedure.
When he shared his concerns with the medical team, they immediately told him about a special resource that may be able to help him out: The Pride and Remembrance Compassionate Fund, established in 2019 through the leadership and generosity of the Pride and Remembrance Foundation. The Foundation raises funds each year through its annual Pride and Remembrance Run and provides grants to a number of organizations serving the LGBTQ+ community across Ontario and beyond.
With the goal to break down barriers to surgery for patients facing financial constraints, the Pride and Remembrance Compassionate Fund is specifically focused on providing support for contouring and other needs not covered by OHIP.
When Kevin heard his application had been approved, he was elated. “I was so excited and happy,” he says. “I cried when I got the email and immediately called the team to say thank you!”
Today, Kevin has undergone a successful mastectomy (top surgery) and contouring and is finally able to live his life how he sees himself. “I’ve lived 39 years in the body of a female, and I am so grateful to experience me for who I am while I’m alive and have the ability to enjoy life as a man,” he says. “I finally feel complete – no more binding down my breasts, or hiding who I truly am. I am a free man living my life to the fullest.”