Clinic consultation

Transgender woman speaks out about waiting times at Sandyford Gender Clinic

A transgender woman has visited a sexual health clinic in Glasgow about its practices, saying long waiting lists are causing people in transition psychological distress and financial hardship.

Glasgow student Talia James came out as transgender two years ago and self-referred for a consultation at Sandyford’s Gender Identity Clinic (GIC) in early 2020.

The GIC is a service that facilitates medical and surgical treatment for gender transition.

Now the 30-year-old has been told she faces a four-year waiting list as the clinic is just beginning to assess patients who signed up for services as early as April 2018.

In the meantime, the student had to seek private healthcare, which cost her £6,000, and started crowdfunding to fund her transition.

Talia said: “It completely destroyed me, to be honest. I was told in 2020 the wait would be two years, but recently I was told I had to wait another two years.

“And God knows how long I will have to wait to start treatment after the consultation appointment, for some people it took more than 6 months.”

Talia James, 30, faces a four-year wait for vital gender identity services.

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Meanwhile, Talia found help through GenderGP, an online transgender clinic offering support and healthcare to trans people.

However, that meant shelling out thousands of treatments, which would otherwise be provided free of charge by the NHS.

She added: ‘I had to spend money which I don’t have, for example for laser hair removal, which should be provided by the NHS, but I couldn’t wait that long, so I had to do something myself.

“I would love to do more, but obviously I can’t afford things like surgeries or voice therapy, those are just distant dreams that may never come true at this rate.”

Talia thinks prejudice and misinformation around transitioning could be to blame for delays in getting the health care that transgender people need.

Glasgow Times: Talia signed up with Sandyford Gender Services in early 2020.Talia signed up with Sandyford Gender Services in early 2020.

She said: “You basically have to prove to the NHS that you are trans enough.

“If you don’t fit their narrow criteria of what’s considered trans, you’re put in hell.

“You go through intense counseling sessions even before you are seen by gender identity services and they ask very in-depth questions that have nothing to do with your gender, for example about your sex life.

“These services need to be brought into the 21st century because they harm trans people, because not all trans people are the same.

“I want to dispel the myth that people are ‘fast-tracked’ to hormone therapy, which really isn’t true.

“The concept that a trans person can do something they regret really hurts trans people because only a tiny minority will change their minds.”

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NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde apologized for the wait times, explaining that the clinic is accepting patients from other parts of Scotland.

A spokesperson said: “We are taking all necessary steps to try to reduce this.

“Over the past year, the service has undertaken quality improvement, which means there will be improvements to patient flow and appointment attendance protocols.

“We continue to review our staffing, while working with the Scottish Government on a new strategic approach to gender services.

“Anyone seeking to engage with the Sandyford Gender Service must undergo a comprehensive assessment by a multidisciplinary team, which may include a number of appointments with a medical professional.

“It’s about making sure that patients can make informed choices, because there can be a lot of uncertainty throughout this process and it’s extremely important that the patient is aware of all the implications.”

You can donate to Talia’s transition fund here.