Covid: How Zoom boom helped Welsh trans patients

By Liam Evans
BBC News

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image copyrightStacy Winson
image captionStacy Winson said Zoom appointments save "time, hassle and money" for Welsh trans patients

Transgender services have been forced to adapt "for the better" since the Covid pandemic, according to one transgender woman receiving treatment.

Stacy Winson, from Caernarfon, said Covid restrictions meant some services have been held over Zoom, saving patients "money, time and hassle".

She said people in Wales had "been screaming" for changes to the system.

The Welsh Government said it was committed to "protecting and enhancing the rights of our trans community".

While transgender people in Wales can receive some services through their health board following the creation of the Welsh Gender Service, many in the community are still receiving treatment on the old system, which involves travelling to London.

Before the pandemic, Stacy had to travel to the transgender clinic in London nearly eight times and said this had cost her "hundreds of pounds" and days off work.

However since coronavirus arrived in the UK, the 27-year-old said treatment and consultations have changed for the better as they are done over via video calling.

'Money, time and hassle'

"Every Welsh (trans) person has been shouting for this," she said.

"It would have saved me so much money, time and hassle just being able to hop on to Zoom for half an hour."

image copyrightStacy Winson
image captionPreviously Stacy spent "hundreds of pounds" travelling for appointments in London

Stacy said the process was "normalised" and "more accessible" to everyone without the requirement to travel to London for appointments.

"You felt like you're a special case... a minority," she said.

"In London you go to the hospital, but the clinic isn't there… it's down an alley and you have to knock on the door and you just feel like no-one wants you."

These changes have been welcomed by charities including Stonewall Cymru, but there are still fears many in the trans community are at risk of not being able to access effective support networks.

Stacy said the pandemic had affected people in the trans community as they can't meet and share their experiences.

'Body confidence'

During her seven-year transition, Stacy received many treatments provided by the NHS - including pitch elevation surgery to make her voice sound more feminine, and a tracheal shave which reduces the size of the Adam's apple.

But she said she is now having to "take out a loan" to pay for breast augmentation, which she said she was refused by the NHS.

image copyrightStacy Winson
image captionStacy, who has been transitioning for seven years, was a bridesmaid at her sisters' wedding

"I'm lucky I have a decent job and I can afford it, but there are other people who can't, and I know how much of it is about body confidence," she said.

"Having this treatment is so important and I'm disappointed that the NHS don't offer it anymore."

The Welsh Health Specialised Services said they have "never routinely commissioned" such treatments and any patients who wish to receive them must "apply for their treatment where a patient's clinician completes an application to make the case for treatment for their patient".

Over the past 18 months the Welsh Government and NHS Wales have introduced more localised services in founding the Welsh Gender Service.

But Stacy said the specialism continues to be "patchy" although she said there has been a big change in attitudes in the past seven years.

Her journey of transitioning will be coming to a head in 18 months when she hopes to receive her biggest treatment yet to fully transform.

Her message to those who are embarking on their own journey is that things "have improved" but you will have to "fight for it".

The Welsh Government said they have now "established the new Welsh Gender Service to ensure that the services we provide meet the needs of our trans community".

They added that they were committed to "protecting and enhancing the rights of our trans community".

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