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Ontario push for more access to ‘sex-change’ surgery is absurd: psychiatrist

Lianne Laurence Lianne Laurence Follow Lianne

TORONTO, July 7, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- As Ontario’s Ministry of Health plans measures to reduce the wait time for publicly funded sex-reassignment surgery (SRS), a well-regarded Toronto-based psychiatrist says the rush to provide these procedures is “absurd” and the push to increase their availability politically motivated.

Citing an unnamed source “close to” Health Minister Eric Hoskins, Toronto’s Globe and Mail claimed on June 25, a day before the Toronto’s “Trans*Pride March” parade, that the ministry will increase the number of sites that can approve sex-reassignment surgeries, but it is “too early to tell where these will be.”

Right now, only the Toronto-based Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) can approve the procedures. CAMH spokesman Mike Hajmasy confirmed that the wait time for assessment is two years.

David Jensen, spokesman for the Ministry of Health, told LifeSiteNews in an email that Hoskins has “asked the ministry to look at options to reduce wait times, as well as to look at the support we provide and the mechanism through which we provide that support” and that “we hope to announce our plans soon.”

But psychiatrist Dr. Joseph Berger says sex reassignment surgeries are “not necessary for anybody,” and that a two-year waiting time “is, if anything, a bit of a relief because the longer that people take to really think it over and perhaps talk about it with some therapists, the better.”

Past president of the Ontario district of the American Psychiatric Association and a former assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto, Berger dismissed the claim that people will be harmed if denied sex-reassignment surgeries as “nonsense.”

“This is something that’s being done because some people want it,” he told LifeSiteNews, “It’s not something that’s necessary in the sense that if a person has a tumor, it’s necessary to remove it.”

He attributed the increased demand to “a sort of crowd effect” brought on by the “fad” of transgenderism, fueled by the highly publicized case of former Olympic decathlete Bruce Jenner, who recently emerged as Caitlyn Jenner. “Certainly there are a lot of people who are very gullible,” Berger pointed out.

And that the surgeries are publicly funding also adds to their popularity, he observed. “Knowing that something is available, that makes it tempting to some people.”

Then-Liberal Health Minister George Smitherman reinstated sex-reassignment surgeries as insurable services in 2008, after the Harris Conservatives de-listed them ten years earlier.

Smitherman predicted at that time, according to the Toronto Star, that eight to ten people annually would qualify for the surgeries after passing a “very rigorous” psychological assessment, at an estimated cost of $200,000.

But while OHIP paid $20,000 for sex-reassignment surgeries in 2008, the cost had increased by 2014-2015 to $2.2 million.

The Globe’s report stated that CAMH approved 177 surgeries in 2014, and that both CAMH’s president and the psychiatrist who runs the Adult Gender Identity Clinic (AGIC) favor increasing the number of sites approving sex-reassignment surgeries.

The June 25 story followed up on an April 17, 2015 Globe report highlighting the “bottleneck” that allegedly put “trans people at risk.”

And an October 2013 Toronto Star article on transgendered youth noted that AGIC’s Dr. Chris McIntosh had sent an open letter to doctors, asking them to consider starting patients on hormone therapy so they can begin transitioning, quoting him: “It’s a distressing thing to seek help for a very distressing condition and have to be told you have to wait 16 months before you can be seen first.”

The article, by Carys Mills, states that OHIP covers the following surgeries: “mastectomy, vaginoplasty (male-to-female surgery which constructs a vagina), metoidioplasty (female-to-male surgery that constructs a penis using the clitoris) and phalloplasty (female-to-male surgery that constructs a penis by using donor tissue, likely from the patient’s arm or leg).”

In Berger’s view, however, “the idea of rushing it seems to me absurd, but that’s lobbying.” He cautioned that premature diagnoses could lead to patients taking drastic measures they will regret.

A March 2014 article in the Advocate, a homosexual magazine, noted that the Human Rights Commission considers the idea that “surgery is a top priority for trans people” a myth.

Berger makes the distinction between people who genuinely think they are a woman trapped in a man’s body or vice versa, and are therefore truly mentally ill because “delusional” and those who are “very unhappy.”

“In general, most of the young people who want to follow the latest fad, they’re not mentally ill, they’re unhappy,” he told LifeSiteNews, and will fixate on the notion that their lives will be better if they switch their sex.

“There’s an envy of the opposite sex, so nowadays there are hormones, there is surgery that can make me appear that I’m a member of the opposite sex but you never are,” he said.

Sex differentiation is in our DNA, and “such operations don’t change your sex, they change the external appearance.”

Berger would refuse any younger person, whom he classifies as mid- to late 30s, who came to him seeking sex-reassignment surgery. Rather, he would recommend that “first of all, have a few years of good psychotherapy, try to work out your issues in terms of unhappiness.”

Berger described the case of a young man who dressed like a woman and wanted sex-reassignment therapy, who in the end decided against it.  “What if in ten years time you regret it, and you decide that maybe it wasn’t the greatest idea after all?” he asked. “It’s very, very difficult to go back so to speak and to try and reverse, very difficult indeed.”

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