Calls to increase awareness of transgender fertility options – MetroNews Canada

Many trans people believe choosing to have surgery to affirm their gender means they have to give up the possibility of having biological children in the future.

But thats not necessarily true, and according to a new study conducted at three Toronto medical centres, many transgender patients arent aware of their fertility options. The study surveyed 213 transgender adults, including 187 who have no children. About half were assigned female at birth; half male.

Thirty per cent of respondents told researchers they didnt know their fertility options. Of those, 77 percent said theyd never even had a conversation about fertility with their doctor.

Infertility is a side effect of hormone therapy and many procedures that fall under the umbrella of gender affirmation surgery (sometimes also called sex reassignment surgery).

But preserving eggs or sperm before beginning treatment can help get around that problem. For example, before having a hysterectomy a transgender man could have his eggs removed and frozen, and then later pursue a pregnancy with a fertile female partner or a surrogate.

Rachel Clark, a transgender woman and LGBTQ rights activist living in Toronto, said the findings didnt surprise her.

I was lucky enough to have a doctor who was experienced, she said. And I came out much later in life. I already knew that I wasnt having children.

But if Im a 20-year-old person (transitioning), I should be informed that its going to have an effect on my reproductive organs, and that I can take steps to preserve fertility, she added.

She blames the problem on many doctors lack of familiarity with transgender health issues.

Now there are many doctors who can make decisions on trans health care, which is great, she said. But people who are new might not know to ask about fertility. Its not that theyre bad doctors, its just that they dont understand.

(According to a 2015 report from the Canadian Federation of Medical Students, Canadian medical students get a median of four hours of instruction about LGBTQ health issues during their entire pre-clinical training.)

Finally, theres the issue of cost. Egg freezing, storage, and IVF can run into the tens of thousands of dollars, and transgender people are disproportionately poor. In Ontario, more than half of transgender people make less than $15,000 per year. Participants in the new Toronto study named cost as their number one barrier to fertility options.

We have to do a better job making sure that people are aware of their reproductive options, Clark said, figuring out a way to alleviate the cost.

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Calls to increase awareness of transgender fertility options - MetroNews Canada

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