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Robertson clarifies trans healthcare stance

Posted in: New Zealand Daily News
By Daily News staff - 23rd May 2015

Grant Robertson says he remains committed to the best trans healthcare
Labour MP Grant Robertson says his comments about gender reassignment surgery were misreported, and though he admits he could have chosen his words better, he says he is “absolutely committed” to the best possible trans healthcare services.

When a grassroots remit from Young Labour calling for free gender reassignment surgery was picked up on by media, journalists asked Labour MPs for their thoughts on the issue as they went into Caucus this week.

Grant Robertson, who is openly-gay, part of Rainbow Labour and senior in the Labour ranks, was quoted as saying he didn't feel strongly either way, but acknowledged it was a "complex issue" that would be an "expensive undertaking".

Robertson says his comments were about fully funding all surgeries, and were misreported and taken out of context.

"In any case I could have chosen my words better," he says.

“I appreciate that there is hurt in the trans community at the moment and for my part, I am sorry this has happened,” Robertson adds.

“I have always supported the trans community and continue to do so. I am absolutely committed to the best possible healthcare services for the trans community.”

The Health Minister Jonathan Coleman was also questioned by media and said free gender reassignment surgery was a "nutty idea".

Rainbow Labour co-chairs Amanda Hill and David Do
Rainbow Labour co-chair Amanda Hill says it’s unfortunate that “a few off-the-cuff comments have been a dog-whistle for bigot politics”.

“This is a healthcare issue, and like many sectors of our community who are often vulnerable and disenfranchised under this Government, the trans community are increasingly missing out,” she says.

Hill says improved access to services for the trans community has been Labour Party policy for several years.

“Our Rainbow Policy at the last election confirmed that Labour in Government would make changes to improve services to the trans community, including addressing gender reassignment services.”

Hill is applauding Young Labour for raising the issue. “Transgender rights are human rights and we will continue to work with Young Labour to educate, inform and advocate within the Labour Party and in Aotearoa.”

At the moment, four gender reassignment surgeries are supposed to happen every two years under the Ministry of Health’s high cost treatment pool.

However surgeries have been on hold since the only surgeon who carried them out in New Zealand retired.

Kelly Ellis, who was a Labour candidate at the last election, and is a TransAdvocates representative, says funding gender reassignment surgeries saves lives. “It also saves money. The government would rather spend money on the costs associated with suicide than release tagged money in the High Cost Funding budget for people to get their promised surgery.”

Ellis says there are 60 people waiting for surgery and the potential cost of clearing the whole waiting list is about a million dollars if patients were flown to Thailand. She says the cost of suicide is higher.

“This is a no brainer. National is spending money on prejudice and no Kiwi wants that.”

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