CONTENT WARNING: This article discusses suicide.

A petition calling for gender-affirmation surgeries to be covered by Medicare is gaining momentum online, ahead of its October end date to see it presented to the Australian government. Trans people – who are already marginalised in Australian society – can pay up to $30,000 (and often more) out of pocket. The government views these procedures as purely cosmetic, but for many trans Aussies, they’re lifesaving.

You may have seen the petition on Instagram, where it is currently going viral after being shared across many an account’s Insta story.

The e-petition — which currently has more than 10,000 signatures at the time of writing — seeks to ask the House of Reps to make gender-affirming surgeries eligible for Medicare benefits.

Not only will this drastically improve the mental health of trans people across the country, but it will also financially support them in taking an important step towards improving their wellbeing. Here’s where you can sign it.

“Transgender people and other people in need of gender-affirming surgery must pay a lot of money, up to $30,000, so they can finally have their outward appearance match how they truly feel on the inside,” reads the petition.

Although most people won’t spend over $30,000 on surgery, once you add in the costs of pre-planning, consultations, aftercare and more, the true cost of transitioning can blow out to $100,000.

Specialist care and treatment in Australia is shockingly lacking for trans people, and a majority of surgeries that are often imperative for gender affirmation are still seen as ‘cosmetic’.

In Australia, the burden of proof is placed on trans people to prove that surgeries such as top surgery are ‘medically necessary’ to see any Medicare coverage, which can lead to gender dysphoria and general discomfort.

The World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) states that top surgery is “not merely another set of elective procedures.”

“Reported quality of life was higher for patients who had undergone breast/chest surgery than for those who had not,” writes WPATH on their site.

In 2018, the New Zealand government lifted a cap on state-funded gender-affirmation surgery, and now fund a minimum of four surgeries every two years. In the UK, the surgery is provided by the National Health Service of England, or NHS for short. In both countries, waiting lists apply, however, Australia clearly falls behind.

At the start of 2020, we spoke to Melbourne-based artist and activist Miss Blanks, or, Sian, who was forced to crowdfund for her life-saving surgeries, due to receiving no support from Medicare.

This is the unfortunate reality for many trans people in Australia, who still see very little support from the government one year on.

“You’re trying to explain that these are not cosmetic surgeries, these are life-changing, life-saving surgeries that, for some trans people, are necessary to alter their overall life experience in a positive way,” Miss Blanks, a Melbourne-based artist who crowdfunded her gender affirmation surgery costs, told PEDESTRIAN.TV in 2020.

“But explaining that to people who can’t understand that, because it’s not an imminent threat – it’s not a virus – I think that’s the toughest part.

“If it means I’m going to have money to have surgery and be happy, so be it. But at the same time, the fact that I have to put myself through this in order to raise the money is really disappointing.”

With access to affordable gender-affirmation surgeries being severely limited, mental health can drastically decline as a result.

In 2017, a study found that 48% of trans youth in Australia had attempted suicide. With such high numbers, trans kids made up a disproportionate amount of the 2.4% of youth in the general public who had attempted suicide.

The report also found that trans young people are 10 times more likely to suffer from serious depression and anxiety than other young Australians.

So yeah, it’s a bloody good petition, and if you haven’t checked it out you can do so, and sign it, right here.

If you’d like to talk about the issues raised in this story, you can call the QLife LGBTI peer support hotline on 1800 184 527 or chat online. 

QLife operates between 3pm and midnight daily.

If you need mental health support, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or chat online.

Under 25? You can reach Kids Helpline at 1800 55 1800 or chat online.

If you require immediate assistance, please call 000.

Image: Getty Images / Flavio Coelho