Trans activists around Australia are overwhelmed by the positive response to a Federal petition started last week that urges for gender affirming surgery to be covered by Medicare.

Within 24 hours, the petition which requests that the House of Representatives “make gender-affirming and gender reassignment services eligible for Medicare benefits,” received  more than 34,000 signatures and currently has over 120,000 signatures.

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Co-founder and CEO of Speak Sage Akouri is one of the many people to share the petition on social media to help it get more attention.

Sage Akouri. Image Supplied.

“To have such a huge engagement in just 24 hours shows just how much this change is needed,” Akouri told Star Observer.

“Allowing gender affirming surgery to be covered by Medicare can help thousands of people experience the absolute joy of having our appearance match who we truly are.”

Prohibitive Costs Of Gender Affirming Surgeries

Western Australian Senator Lousie Pratt shared the petition on her Facebook page. The Food Angels Mutual Aid, a home food delivery service for LGBTQIA+ people in crisis, also shared the petition on their Instagram page. 

Founder of Trans Health Australia Melody Moore told Star Observer that seeing the positive response to the petition has given her a lot of hope.

“The response to this petition has totally stunned us. We have worked on previous petitions that would get 600 to 800 signatures. But to see the amount of signatures this petition has is overwhelming,” said Moore.

The costs for gender confirmation surgery in Australia varies quite considerably based upon a person’s financial means and circumstances, but on an average can cost up to $30,000.

“The way the current system is set-up, it is very difficult for trans people to plan and save for these types of surgeries,” Moore said.

“The other issue is that even if they (trans and gender diverse people) can afford it, it is often by drawing out of their superannuation funds, which completely depletes their superannuation.”

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According to Moore, trans and gender diverse people are also losing a lot of money because surgeons are overcharging them due to the shortage of surgeons that specialise in these types of surgeries.

Biggest Trans Specific Issue At The Federal level

Sally Goldner

Sally Goldner. Image Supplied.

Transgender Victoria Media Representative Sally Goldner AM said covering gender affirming surgery under Medicare is the biggest trans specific issue at the Federal Government level.

“It has gone on for too long and it really needs to get passed,” Goldner said

“We do get queries on surgical health issues at Transgender Victoria, and if something like this was funded and made clear on how it could be funded, it would make life so much easier, create a lot less mental health problems and probably increase physical health for trans and gender diverse people.”

Making gender reaffirming surgery more affordable would help trans and gender diverse people live more productive lives, according to Goldner.

“When people need trans or gender diverse surgery but can’t afford to receive it they remain stuck and can’t move forward with their life and it becomes a huge point of distress.”

“Investing in the costs of trans surgeries in the end will save taxpayers money as trans people are more likely to get back to work and pay tax at a state and federal level and more likely to not rely on government benefits. The surgeries trans and gender diverse people go through are life changing and life saving,” added Goldner.

All Eyes On The Federal Government’s Response To The Petition

Image courtesy Transgender Victoria

Former Greens member and the first transgender soldier to transition while serving in the Australian Army  Bridget Clinch said it is good to see the federal petition get a lot of online attention. Cinch is, however, unsure whether the government will be supportive.

“There are always petitions going around, but often they are done on external Parliament platforms. With this petition though it is an official Parliament one which means the government can’t just ignore it.”

Once the petition has closed it will be presented to the House of Representatives and will usually be referred to a Minister for a response. When the response is received and presented to the House it will be posted on the petition webpage.

These stages can take quite a while and occur at various times according to when the House of Representatives meets. “These processes are archaic and slow and I’m not sure if the current government would care about this petition,” Clinch said.

“(But) once something is tabled it does become more visible and if we can elect more progressive members of Parliament at the next election, we have more of a chance of getting this through.” 

The current Federal Liberal government is still trying to pass a religious discrimination bill that would give religious organisations more freedom to discriminate against LGBTQIA+ people. The bill is on track to be tabled sometime in December this year.

The petition urging the Federal government to include Gender affirming surgery in Medicare coverage is on the Australian Parliament’s website. The closing dates for signatures for the gender affirming petition is 11:59pm October 27 2021.

 

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