Transgender woman crowdfunding for £20,000 treatment
A transgender woman is using crowdfunding to raise money for reassignment surgery because of long waits for NHS treatment.
Sarah O'Connell, from Southampton, saw her GP in March last year but has only just had an initial consultation at a gender identity clinic.
The 35-year-old is trying to raise £20,000 through donations.
The NHS said it recognised the "urgent need to bring down waiting times" and funding is being made available.
'Like being in prison'
Mrs O'Connell, who has a wife and five-year-old daughter, said: "Transitioning can be incredible expensive, this is a last resort. I haven't had NHS support yet. The waiting lists are very long."
She had facial surgery in September and is now hoping to raise £20,000 for all aspects of transitioning, including gender reassignment surgery, hormone treatment through a private doctor, laser treatment and voice coaching.
Mrs O'Connell had to wait until January this year for an initial consultation with a gender identity clinic (GIC) in London.
She said she does not know when her next appointment will be.
A report on transgender equality for the Women and Equalities Committee published in January said:
- High levels of transphobia are experienced by individuals on a daily basis
- The NHS is letting down trans people: it is failing in its legal duty under the Equality Act
- GPs too often lack understanding and in some cases this leads to appropriate care not being provided
- Unacceptably long waiting times for initial appointments at GICs are endemic
- Many people have to travel long distances in order to access treatment
Mrs O'Connell said: "It is a long process, it is like being in prison for something you didn't commit and I want to get it over as quickly as possible.
"I just want to get on with my life, I don't want to spend my whole life doing this."
She said her wife has known since early in their relationship she was transgender.
"I have known who I am since I was three years old, so it has been the biggest relief telling my family," she said.
The film writer and critic decided last year to start medically transitioning and is taking hormone tablets after seeing a private doctor.
LGBT campaign group Stonewall said it was "extremely concerning, though unsurprising" to hear of such cases.
"It's essential that it's addressed with urgency."
NHS guidelines say people should be seen within 18 weeks, but waiting times can be up to 18 months for an initial consultation at the specialist clinics.
Will Huxter, chairman of NHS England's gender identity task and finish group, said: "The NHS has put additional funding into gender identity services for the last two years and will continue to do so.
"We recognise the urgent need to bring down waiting times, and to this end we have met with all the gender identity clinics to agree plans to increase capacity from April 2016."