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'Gender clinics weren't accessible for me' – a trans woman in Inverness comments on her experience of accessing gender clinics in Scotland

By Andrew Henderson

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A trans woman from Inverness says gender clinics were inaccessible when she first wanted to transition – but she is relieved to see the situation improving for people in the Highlands.

New data, obtained through Freedom of Information requests, showed that people on the waiting list for a first appointment at the gender identity service in Inverness had the second shortest wait of any health board in Scotland, and is keeping up with the demand for the service better than anyone else.

A trans flag was flown at the Victorian Market during Pride month back in June. Picture: Stephen Doyle
A trans flag was flown at the Victorian Market during Pride month back in June. Picture: Stephen Doyle

With more staff being taken on recently, those statistics should only improve, with optimism both from within the clinic itself and the LGBTQ+ community in the Highlands that the situation is getting better.

That is a far cry from one trans woman's experience years ago, where the lengthy waiting times forced her into self-medicating in order to start the process.

"When I was 17, I self-referred to the gender clinic in Glasgow, and got ignored," she recalled.

"Back then I think there was a lot of gate-keeping still, and things are different now, but I was ignored by the gender clinic.

"A gender clinic wasn't accessible to me when I started to transition more recently either. Thankfully, come the new year I believe the Inverness gender clinic for trans people in the Highlands will be more accessible, and the wait times will come down.

"It still won't be great, but it will be better than five years. It's already better than anywhere else in the UK from what I've heard.

"My last blocker injection that I had, I was speaking to them and being nosy, and they've actually got someone in now to do assessments. They're either going to be based at the gender clinic in Inverness or at New Craigs, and hopefully they will be active in the first quarter of the new year.

"Basically, the Highlands will do their own assessments. When I first started, Inverness had no power whatsoever. You had to wait for Sandyford (in Glasgow), and that was it, and it was going to be three to five years."

That "three-to-five-year" wait for the Sandyford clinic in Glasgow, which is the only one in Scotland that accepts self-referrals, would be optimistic by today's standards.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde had the worst figures of any of the gender clinics in Scotland, with by far the longest waiting list and waiting times for adults well in excess of five years.

They commented: "As is the case throughout the country, services across NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde – including gender services at the Sandyford Clinic – are under considerable pressure.

"All our staff are doing all they can to address these challenges, and we would like to thank them for their continuing commitment and professionalism.

"People wishing to access our gender services are unfortunately experiencing considerable waiting times, and we would like to apologise to them for that.

"Gender services are a complex speciality which demands a particular set of clinical skills and other qualities from staff, and it is true that we are facing specific challenges around recruitment in some areas.

"We have taken a range of steps to recruit staff to the gender service, using channels such as professional publications, general media and social media. We are currently advertising for posts, and we will monitor progress.

"We are constantly reviewing our recruitment procedures in this area, and we are prepared to widen our search for the right staff if that is deemed appropriate."

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