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Rainbow community gives thumbs up to funding boost for gender reassignment surgery

The rainbow community is welcoming a funding boost for gender reassignment surgery, saying it will make a big difference to many transgender lives.

Until now, the Government had only funded on average two operations a year, resulting in a 50-year waiting list, with 163 people on the list.

The increase of $3 million means 14 more people will be able to get surgeries every year.

Kate Collyns, a peer support worker in Wellington, is number 104 on the waiting list. The extra funding has given her hope she will get the surgery which she said is an important part of her transition.

"My body is a source of immense discomfort. It gets in the way of relationships, it gets in the way of me living my life. I'm really, really looking forward to going swimming," she told 1 NEWS.

The Ministry of Health puts the average cost of male to female surgery at nearly $43,000. For female to male surgery it’s close to $219,000.

Ahi Wi-Hongi, the national co-ordinator of Gender Minorities Aotearoa, said the extra funding will relieve a huge financial burden as some transgender people had borrowed heavily to self-fund their surgery.

"Some people if they had assets like a house they were maybe re-mortgaging or they were selling."

They said the long waiting list was prohibitive.

"We also know it’s been very difficult to find a doctor who will refer them to the waiting list because it’s been seen as pointless, with a 50 year waiting list."

Alison MacDiarmid, the Wellington advisor for Agender NZ, paid for her surgery before there was ever public funding available.

She said it was life-changing.

"I was able to get on with my life and do all the other things I wanted to do with my life instead of having this great big thing sitting in the way of progressing my education and my career."

But she and others in the community are urging the Government to consistently invest if the wait list is to be tackled.

The Associate Minister of Health Julie Anne Genter said the funding was a “big step in the right direction.” But she acknowledged the funding pot needed to grow if the wait list is to be cleared.

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The waiting list for surgery is about 50 years. Source: 1 NEWS