Surgery, hormone therapy, legal name changes, clothing… There are many ways to transition genders, and someone who’s going through the process can pick whatever combination they like. “It’s like a restaurant menu: everyone’s transition process differs depending on what they want and what they can afford,” said Fondation Émergence’s Olivia Baker, who provides training on LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace. Here is why transitioning is so important, what challenges we should expect and how employers can offer a more inclusive environment through the new Desjardins Insurance group insurance coverage.
The importance of feeling comfortable in your own skin
Many trans people have experienced dysphoria on a daily basis for years. One study showed that 73% of trans women and 78% of trans men started feeling gender dysphoria at age 7.
According to another study, 67% of people transitioning experienced more suicidal ideation before starting the process, while only 3% experienced it more after their transition. “When people are given access to the physical and mental health care they need, they get the tools to feel comfortable in their own skin,” explained Baker.
A process with many challenges
The gender transition process isn’t just physical. It comes after a trans person has spent a great deal of time thinking about the issue. This often includes re-examining their innermost thoughts and feelings from years or even decades past to reconcile their past, present and future. Once they’ve done that and come out of the closet, they may be surprised by the reactions of some of their loved ones and colleagues.
They also need to have patience, since the wait to see specialists can be long. Issues with the health care system, the way they’re seen by others and their physical transformation can also be frustrating. “Getting hormone therapy is like going through puberty all over again: your body changes and your emotions may run high,” added Baker. Finally, trans people often face discrimination and intimidation, and are more likely to be targets of violence.
The price you pay for being yourself
The cost of gender-affirming treatments is often not fully reimbursed by public health insurance. For example, consider a trans woman who, to feel at home in their own body and be viewed as a woman by others, needs to reduce the size of their Adam’s Apple, remove their beard through electrolysis and get hair implants. These treatments are usually considered to be cosmetic and are therefore not covered by insurance, which means individuals have to pay the cost themselves. “Financial considerations shouldn’t keep anyone from transitioning,” said Martin Nadon, who manages the Group and Business Insurance Product Development and Training Department at Desjardins Insurance. “Each of these procedures is important and specific to each person.”
New group insurance coverage from Desjardins
In October 2022, Desjardins Insurance introduced new group insurance coverage to support people who are transitioning and help them stay in good financial health. This product is the result of extensive consultation with trans individuals, the GrS Montréal clinic and Fondation Émergence. It also follows the guidelines set out by the Canadian Professional Association for Transgender Health (CPATH). “Knowing what people truly need is crucial if you want to offer a product that actually meets those needs,” said Nadon. Certain treatments that had previously been deemed cosmetic are now covered under this new offering from Desjardins Insurance.
Keep in mind that some treatments were already covered under the Desjardins Insurance group insurance plan, such as hormone therapy and gender affirming voice therapy, but the new offering expands the range of treatments covered.
A workplace toolkit
The first person to initiate a gender transition within a company often has to do everything on their own: contact the insurer, change their email address and login information with the IT department, answer (sometimes intrusive) questions from their colleagues, and so on. And that’s not even getting into the delicate question of whether they should use the men’s or women’s washrooms.
That’s why Desjardins Insurance has partnered with Fondation Émergence to provide employers with a toolkit. The new product includes an information video and guide on creating inclusive workplaces for members of the LGBTQ+ community, their colleagues and their managers. “In addition to offering a group insurance product that meets people’s needs, we provide support and tools so that employers and employees can take full advantage of it,” said Nadon.
This helps people who are transitioning focus on what’s important: their personal transition journey. “Let’s do everything we can to support individuals and take some weight off their shoulders,” said Baker.
• • •
THE ESSENTIAL BASIC GLOSSARY
Gender affirmation: A range of social, psychological, behavioural and medical interventions that affirm a person’s gender identity if it is in conflict with the sex assigned to them at birth.
Gender transition: A gradual process through which a trans person chooses to affirm their gender identity. To do so, they can take advantage of gender-affirming treatments (such as surgery) and/or items (such as compression garments).
Gender dysphoria: A feeling that can range from discomfort to psychological distress. It is caused by the difference between a person’s gender identity and the sex assigned to them at birth.
Gender expression: The ways in which people present their gender identity to the world, including through their behaviour and their appearance (such as their hair and clothing).
Gender identity: The way someone defines their gender (male, female, both, neither, or somewhere along the gender spectrum).
Trans: Adjective used to describe someone whose gender identity doesn’t match the sex assigned to them at birth. The opposite of a trans person is a cisgender person.
Cisgender: Adjective used to describe someone whose gender identity matches the sex assigned to them at birth.
Non-binary: Adjective used to describe someone whose gender identity is neither exclusively male nor exclusively female.