Today saw the start of the 24th biennial WPATH Symposium, in Amsterdam. The WPATH are the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, a non-profit professional organization devoting themselves to transgender care (link).They are, among other things, the minds behind the Standards of Care – the standards that trans* healthcare professionals work with.
There is one but. The butt is that it costs a fortune to enter (a whopping 830 euro or approximately 935 USD (according to Google). There are very few transgender people who would be able to, or even willing, to pay such an amount for a four day conference. The result is that few transgender people are actually attending. Because of this, a few of my friends organized an alternative, the FreePathh (website here).
During the FreePathh (which took place today), topics are discussed that matter to transgender people – and by implication, to healthcare providers. Among others, these are knowing your rights, owning and influencing your own care, informed consent, diagnosis for minors and several workshops, among which the toll of waiting for several months, if not years, to get adequate treatment.
Despite my not being able to come (I was invited to contribute to last mentioned topic), I applaud the effort my friends made and think that this can set an example for trans* identified people everywhere to take back their self-determination and give the professionals an idea of what really matters to us. These were the ideas that visitors had for better care:
“stop treating transgender care as a luxury thing. When being addicted I get help a lot faster, and my problem is understood as serious problem. Do I need to be a problem in order to have one?”
“safe care involves including and centering trans* voices in information exchange. Making conferences inaccessible and limiting trans* inclusion creates unsafe spaces and practices!”
“the BMI is a sham, not science. Forcing people to lose weight for their care causes eating disorders and more. Stop it now!”
“the decision to follow therapy or not should be up to me, I´m not crazy – I´m sure about my decision, I should be able to transition”.
These are just a few, but I think they sum up the situation pretty well. As a community, we feel that the professional world isn´t trusting us to make our own decisions (concerning our identity) and that we´re not given an opportunity to contribute to practices that affect us directly. I hope initiatives like the Free PATHH will really make a difference – and to my friends: awesome job!