sex-change ops on the tab

The New Zealand government has decided to start picking up the tab on sex-change operations. Not for everyone though. Only four lucky lottery winners get the door-prize of a lifetime and make their friends green with envy.

The policy, quietly adopted by the Government last year but little-known outside the transgender community, saw funding set aside for up to four operations over two years.

The package includes up to three male to female operations –worth about $30,000 each –performed by Christchurch cosmetic and reconstructive surgeon Peter Walker.

He performed the first of those operations at Southern Cross Hospital last month.

A fourth operation, female to male, could take place offshore as the surgery is not done in New Zealand. The operation costs up to $80,000 in Australia.

The money is coming from a $5.6 million special high-cost treatment budget.

— Stuff

Sex operations go on the tab

A new Government policy to fund about $170,000 worth of sex-change operations, has been welcomed by transgender advocate Christina Loughton.

“There is not going to be enough to pay for everyone,” said Loughton, 66, who runs transgender support group Agender New Zealand’s Christchurch branch.

“But it’s the younger ones who need the opportunity to move on and become ambassadors for the group.”

The policy, quietly adopted by the Government last year but little-known outside the transgender community, saw funding set aside for up to four operations over two years.

The package includes up to three male to female operations –worth about $30,000 each –performed by Christchurch cosmetic and reconstructive surgeon Peter Walker.

He performed the first of those operations at Southern Cross Hospital last month.

A fourth operation, female to male, could take place offshore as the surgery is not done in New Zealand. The operation costs up to $80,000 in Australia.

The money is coming from a $5.6 million special high-cost treatment budget.

Health Ministry spokesman Colin Feek said the policy would be assessed in a year or two. “It’s policy, but we’re being cautious about the implementation of it. How do you pick people successfully to live a different life? As you’d appreciate, it’s quite hard.”

The final decision on who gets surgery would be made by Walker and his surgical team. Patients must pay for their own pre-operative assessments.

Walker said the policy was giving transgender people a chance they would not otherwise have.

“Transgender people seem to be quite intelligent, generally speaking,” he said. “I have patients from every walk of life. But unfortunately there are a few who have left school because they have been ridiculed. They have no education and gone on to the streets as prostitutes. They have no chance at all of getting $30,000 together.”

Agender’s Christchurch branch has 30 paid-up members.

Loughton said the city generally accepted transgender people.

“Young yahoos might spin a car around and ask if you are available but they don’t just do it to us,” she said. “I personally have had very few discriminatory experiences.”

Her own coming out was made all the more difficult because she was a Presbyterian parish minister and a husband.

Loughton would cross-dress in private and visit massage par-lours, while working as a minister.

Loughton’s wife accepted her new femme personality at first, but their 40-year marriage has since ended.