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Transgender health clinic opens in Kingston

Navigating Ontario’s health care system can be difficult for any patient. For trans and intersex patients, these barriers to care can be virtually insurmountable. Three local health care professionals are trying to change this with a new transgender health clinic.

A gynecologist by training, Dr. Ashley Waddington started a clinic for transgender patients at KGH three years ago after seeing an increase in patients seeking menstrual suppression at her contraception clinics. With a doctor and another gynecologist, Dr. Waddington ran the clinic once a month at Kingston General Hospital (KGH).

“As soon as the word sort of got out that somebody was seeing people for gender diversity issues, the referrals just started to pour in,” said Dr. Waddington, explaining that they were quickly overwhelmed with demand as the clinic’s popularity exploded and racked up a year-long waiting list. “It was way more than I was expecting. We couldn’t handle this because we all already had full time practices.”

After seeing the community’s need for their services, they applied for funding to hire a social worker and nurse practitioner in order to run a full-time clinic. After being granted a year of base funding and five years of additional funding from the Local Integrated Health Network, the transgender health clinic opened in the Kingston Community Health Centres.

Staffed by Dr. Waddington, social worker Kaili Gabriel, and registered nurse Heather Geddes, the clinic serves approximately 100 patients with a wide range of services, including gender-affirming medical care and treatments. The clinic offers medical transition services (such as hormone therapy) and referrals for surgical transitions (including top and/or bottom surgery).

Clinic social worker Kaili Gabriel provides free mental health counselling for anyone experiencing any kind of gender identity issue, and support to their families, parents, siblings, and children. She stated that Canadians who identify as transgender often experience a greater prevalence of mental health issues, creating a need for transgender-specific mental health services. According to a 2018 study by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Transgender youth in Canada are between 3.8 to 16.1 times more likely than their cisgender peers to report psychological distress, self-harm, major depressive episode, suicidal ideation, and suicide attempts.

Gabriel also helps connect preexisting resources and community organizations to create a network of support.

“I’ve been working with other local agencies to make everyone aware and create community capacity,” said Gabriel.

The clinic also assists patients in changing their sex designation on birth certificates, driver’s licenses, and OHIP cards. It became slightly easier for Ontarians wishing to change or remove their official gender markers when the province made driver’s licences with ‘X’ instead of ‘F’ or ‘M’ in the sex field available in early 2017 and removed the sex designation on Ontario health cards in June 2019.

Geddes sees about three new patients a day and up to five follow up patients. She said she left a “very secure” job to come work as the clinic’s full time nurse, but the risk paid off.

“It’s the best job I’ve ever had,” Geddes said. “You see how happy you’re making people.”

The clinic is planning to work with a family doctor at Queen’s family health team to start a primary care clinic for gender-diverse people, but also provides education and resources about transgender health to local doctors.

“One of the challenges is that there’s not a lot of providers in the city who are comfortable with this care,” said Waddington. “They’ve never done any training in their residency or medical school.”

While transgender patients sometimes require special kinds of care related to transitioning or mental health, they often have many of the same day-to-day health needs as cisgender patients.

“This doesn’t have to be such specialized care. This is something that other primary care providers could do and feel comfortable with,” Waddington explained. “We’re also working on making this an educational opportunity.”

The transgender health clinic is located at the Kingston Community Health Centres at 263 Weller Avenue. To learn more or book an appointment, contact the clinic by email at [email protected] or by phone at 613 542 2949 ext. 1166.

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3 thoughts on “Transgender health clinic opens in Kingston

  • August 1, 2019 at 10:22 pm
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    high 5 everyone at clinic :) this is so needed , i mean everywhere , but 1 is a good start , i’m so excited for everyone getting the help they need n those helping :) *sends virtual hugs to anyone who needs*

  • October 31, 2019 at 12:25 pm
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    Our daughter came out at her senior year in high school many years ago as gay. We love her unconditionally. Once she started university she suffered anxiety quite a bit and it was on going on and off and giving me bits a nd pieces how she felt over the years with her body. She was never comfortable in her own skin/gender now I look back. As of last night it’s come to fruition. She told us that:
    They are nonbinary and they always felt they did not like their breast. Gender dysphoria of their breast. They are 70% male40% female.
    My husband and I are having to need to talk to someone to help them to transition while on hormone therapy at your clinic.
    Also family counselling..I feel the only way I’ll be able to move on ….it’s very hard to wrap my mind around all this to a point of overwhelming grief and loss as though I was cheated of a daughter..my mind tells me they will be always that same person just not the gender we raised her . This is beyond my scope and feel very messed up and its not easy.
    I was told by our son to use they; them; theirs since they are non-binary. So I’m trying.
    Please we need to talk to someone and to read info about the
    Type of testosteron that is given to them etc the transition how hard is it on their body, will the anxiety subside about this aspect of their life????
    We love them the day they were born and we did raise them as girls. It’s like I had twins born in one body.
    My husband and I are trying our best. It’s not even a full day since they told us and we agree familyr counselling should include them, us and our son even if it’s done via phone. We live in NorthBay and our child that will be receiving testosteron treatment lives in Kingston and goes to your clinic.
    Please send educational information maybe a book about morning them. Etc
    Cheers.?
    Carol&Phil Clement
    North Bay, Ontario

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