If anyone in the UK reading this had depression they would go to their GP and tell them that they were suffering from depression or anxiety, the GP would in return, ask a few questions, ensure they weren’t a danger to themselves and prescribe some medication. Possibly, alongside a referral to Talking Matters or a similar service.
Now, let’s change the scenario a bit and change this story from “they” to “me”
So, there is no external proof that I am depressed or suffering anxiety; the GP would take my word for it.
The GP would understand that there has to be a level of trust in this matter. They have to accept my account of what I am feeling and experiencing.
Medication for this comes in many different forms.
None of them is 100% understood in how they will affect an individual because we are all different. What works for me may not work for my sister. The patient then is monitored by the GP. Unless the issue is severe or they suspect other issues, there is no referral to a psychologist.
Were you to go to the same GP and tell them you are transgender however you will receive a referral to a Gender Identity Clinic.
Unless you are fortunate, you will receive no other assistance from your GP on this matter until you have seen specialists.
You will then wait, in my case, the current estimate is 49 months, for your first appointment. At this time, you get to tell another person that you are transgender and discuss your hopes and expectations with them. Then you will wait again, current estimate 36 months, to be assessed by a mental health expert. You will get no medication or assistance in the meantime.
This is despite transgender health care not being considered a mental health issue. (See https://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/health-determinants/gender/gender-definitions/whoeurope-brief-transgender-health-in-the-context-of-icd-11 )
Why must we be assessed throughout our transition by a mental health worker when a GP can treat and medicate someone suffering from depression or anxiety?
Why can we not be trusted with our own lives and experiences as we are with those other ‘unseen’ ailments?
At this point, you might say to me, “You’ve said it isn’t a mental health issue, but you’re comparing it to the treatment of one.” And you’d be right.
So I’ll switch tact.
When have you had to see a mental health expert before you were allowed to be given medication for any other illness or injury? I didn’t have a psychiatrist talk to me before I had my tonsils removed or the surgery on my knee or the medication I received, again from my GP, to try and alleviate the issues on my knee, shoulder or ankle or through any other issue.
So I ask again, why must a mental health worker assess us throughout our transition? Is this discrimination? Is this a deliberate attempt to prevent people from being treated for their issues? Is it, like the waiting times themselves, a breach of UK law?
Now, I’m not daft. I understand there are people who might have issues aside from their trans issue and may need further help. There may be people for whom talking with a mental health worker is helpful. These things, though, like issues assessed alongside depression and anxiety, can be done by your GP.
For many of us, we know who we are and what will alleviate that pain we feel.
We know it isn’t a mental health issue.
We have taken a long time to think about these things, and we have read all about the issues that may come from transition, and yet we have taken the step to start that transition. Many of us have lived as our true selves for some time. In my case, for three years now.
Many transgender and non-binary people suffer from depression and anxiety only because we are forced to live our lives with extremely long waiting times. Without any news or hope or assistance.
Because we feel we have to fight to be seen as people by our GP’s and the Government and other services. Take those issues away, and many transgender people, like myself, would have the opportunity to live without the anxiety and depression.
Sadly, the waits are getting longer in the UK, and the fight is becoming more desperate by the day.
My question is, why must we be singled out and jump through hoops that no one else has to?
Just why is our medical service so heavily biased against us?