- There is currently a two-year waiting list on United Kingdom’s National Health Services just to get initial consultation.
- The delay prompted many transgender patients to buying pills illegally online.
- Taking hormone therapy required regular check-ups with the doctors to track any side effects including development of gallstones, sleep apnea, hair loss, and formation of potentially deadly blood clots
Transgender people who are transitioning are risking their lives obtaining pills online as United Kingdom’s health agency face struggle with crippling waiting lists according to the transgender related news by The Sun published on January 16.
There is currently a two-year waiting list just to get the first consultation for gender reassignment in the National Health Services (NHS).
Risk of buying pills online
For transgender woman Wendy Philips, 44, he took estrogen pills and testosterone inhibitors – hormone tablets essential for transitioning – from India between 2014 and 2016.
Estrogen augments breast tissue and higher-pitched voice, while testosterone inhibitors prevent male characteristics such as growth of facial hair and muscles.
“Obviously there are risks involved and you are taking a big chance. But when people are desperate, this is what happens,” Philips said. “But for myself, and for many other people, it’s a necessity if you can’t get hormone therapy prescribed by a GP.
Having recently undergone sex reassignment surgery, she bought finasteride and spironolactone off the internet because NHS waiting list for treatment was taking too long.
She explained, “These drugs are really not that hard to find – I just typed a search into Google.”
Philips, a railway worker from Northampton, starred in ITV series Transformation Street that showed the lives of transgender people and the work of Christopher Inglefield at London Transgender Surgery clinic. It was Inglefield who was responsible for Philip’s surgery.
The risk of buying pills online involved the lack of control on pricing. In the process, Philips spent her life savings on the hormone treatment.
“As you’re purchasing without a prescription, the pharmacy can guess what the drugs are being used for and can ultimately charge what they like,” Philip stated. “At one point I was paying around £300 per month just for the oestrogen alone.”
NHS Waiting list
Transgender individuals who get in touch with doctors are referred to Gender Identity Clinic where they get counselling, hormone treatment and other transition-related services.
Patients who wished to undergo genital reconstructive procedure are required to live at least a year in their gender. But with a two-year waiting list on NHS just for the initial consultation, many transgender people resorted to buying hormones illegally online.
“You have to have some growth in the breast area in order for a surgeon to be able to carry out a breast augmentation yet it’s a long consultation process to get the hormones legitimately,” Philips mentioned. “And excessive NHS waiting times need to be cut so that people can talk to someone about what they’re going through.”
She also complained the situation at NHS as unacceptable.
“If you walk into your GP, you get seen as soon as possible,” Philips said. “But if you are transgender you’re looking at a two to three year wait on the NHS. That’s not acceptable.”
She claimed that some patient may commit suicide due to the lengthy waiting times.
According to the Nation Center for Transgender Equality, about 40 percent of transgender individuals attempted suicide at some point in their lives.
Philips also shared her journey discovering that she was transgender. “Being in the wrong skin is like having to wear a set of clothes you can never take off… There’s no other way to describe it. I didn’t let anybody close to me, not even my ex-wife.”
“If you can’t be intimate at all because you hate your own body then that’s a massive strain on the other person,” she said. “I used to work on the track with gangs of men. I was working as a male but only in my private life I was living as a woman. And walking into work when you first present as female was the hardest thing I’ve ever done – the hardest thing through the whole process.”
She also explained that it wasn’t something that she decided to choose.
“No-one wants to be a transgender person. We don’t choose this, it isn’t an option,” Philips said. “It’s something that eats away at you until you either do something about it or, tragically, end your own life.”
Upon transitioning, she said she was at peace with herself.
“Transitioning is a major thing. It’s not something you do on a whim,” she stated. “For me I’m finally at peace with myself. What more could you ask for?”
There are risks associated with taking hormones such as increase of potentially deadly blood clots, developing gallstones, hair loss, and sleep apnea.
That’s why it is important that patients need to have regular checks up with their physician.
Mr. Inglefield, UK’s pioneering gender reassignment surgeon, said that he had many patients who were lost and desperate.
“Anyone undergoing gender reassignment is in the middle of a very difficult journey,” the doctor said. “The operation is just a small part of the journey, and often these people struggle alone, feeling isolated from the rest of society.”
He also hoped that society at large would understand the struggles transgender people face.
“People on the outside need to understand the struggle people in the transgender community face, and hopefully that will create acceptance where there is currently none,” he concluded.