'It felt like an interrogation' Transgender man criticises healthcare 'battle' in Wales

A young man has spoken about his experience accessing healthcare as a transgender person in Wales, saying at times it "felt like a battle".

In a documentary for ITV Cymru Wales, Joey Davies, 19, said his experience of receiving care "felt like an interrogation sometimes" while he was transitioning.

After waiting years to progress his gender transition, he said getting an appointment “took too much time”.

The Wales Gender Service is responsible for providing support and treatment regarding gender issues to GPs.

Based in Cardiff, the service is made up of a team that includes consultants, gender clinicians, clinical psychologists, language therapists, and managers throughout Wales.

They do not provide care or advice to anyone under the age of 18, but it is possible to join the waiting list at 17.5 years old.

Joey said the process has, at times, felt "like a battle"

The waiting time for an initial appointment at the service takes around 14 months with the aim to understand the background, current circumstances, and future plans of patients.

Since 2019, there has been a 90% increase in the number of referrals to the gender service.

Patients have been made to wait around 26 months for an appointment as the clinic experienced the huge increase in demand.

  • 2021-2022: 972 referrals

  • 2020-2021: 646 referrals

  • 2019-2020: 510 referrals

(Wales Gender Service)

Joey said he waited two years for his first of many appointments with a psychologist to be diagnosed with gender dysphoria.

This is a condition where a person experiences discomfort or distress that a person may have because of a mismatch between their biological sex and gender identity.

After receiving this diagnosis, individuals can begin the process of receiving treatment to change their gender medically. With a referral to a Local Gender Team or GP, in some cases, this means taking Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT).

“It’s life saving medication, because it’s something that’s such a big part of you. When the outside doesn’t match the inside, it has a huge impact on your mental health” he explained.

Since he moved from Cardiff to study in Manchester, Joey is now part of the English healthcare system. He said he faces more delays to be able to receive his testosterone prescription.

Joey described the system in Wales as 'frustrating'

“I don’t think enough people see it as something trans people need” he said.

“It’s really frustrating having to wait even longer after waiting so many years", he said.

Joey’s aim is to have surgery, but most surgeons recommend waiting for at least six months after starting HRT for this, as it allows time to see the initial effects of the medication.

This, along with the price of the surgery, is a concern for Joey.

He said: "It feels a bit unfair that it’s so expensive", and he argued that these surgeries should not be considered cosmetic.

He explained that he is “deeply uncomfortable” with the way his body looks.

"I don’t think it’s treated as something that’s so serious”.

A spokesperson for Cardiff and Vale University Health Board said: "The Welsh Gender Service is committed to promoting a culture of inclusivity; supporting our communities and our patients to feel comfortable being their true, authentic selves.

“The patient undertakes a diagnostic evaluation with our gender clinicians who work closely with them to identify a treatment plan best suited to their needs.

“The Service is proud of its progressive ethos and works closely with patients to ensure they are informed and equipped with the information and support they need to understand and ask questions regarding their care and treatment plans. When a patient reaches a decision in their healthcare, they are encouraged to review all options available to them and participate actively with their healthcare professional in making the decision.

“The Welsh Gender Service work as a multi-disciplinary team who provide holistic, patient-centred care that is focused on hormonal, psychological, and social aspects of transition.”

The programme, Life in Transition, is available to watch now on Hansh’s YouTube channel, S4C Clic, and BBC iPlayer.