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Alberta delists gender reassignment surgery

Program cost only 19 cents per Albertan each year

The Alberta government delisted funding for gender reassignment surgery this week, and trans activists are quickly organizing to push for the program’s reinstatement.

In Tuesday’s budget, the province announced it was cutting the GRS program to save $700,000 a year. Alberta plans to spend $12.9 billion on healthcare in 2009, according to figures released this week. The GRS program funded surgeries for between 10 and 20 people a year.

The decision to end the GRS program comes just weeks after the province said it would add sexual orientation but not gender identity to the province’s human rights legislation.

Activists have taken to the web to organize. A Facebook group, Reinstate Gender Reassignment Surgery Funding in Alberta, was created on April 8 and now has over 600 members.

Members of the group are urging anyone who has started the transitioning process to file a human rights complaint on the grounds of “gender,” “physical disability” or “mental disability.”

It’s unclear if those already on a waiting list for surgery will have their surgery funded. Some members of the Facebook group say they have been told by Alberta Health that only people who are part way through surgery will be “grandfathered.”

Others are starting a letter-writing campaign to provincial politicians. The annual cost of the surgery breaks down to about 19 cents for every Albertan, so activists are sending 19 cents in pennies to their MLAs to demonstrate that the program does not have a high price tag.

There is also talk of demonstrations in Edmonton and Calgary, but no dates or details have been set.