A transgender woman in Manitoba has won an appeal in a case her lawyer says will mark the first time the province will cover the cost of facial feminization surgery.
“This has been a long road for my client,” said Allison Fenske, a staff attorney with the Public Interest Law Centre who represented the woman in her latest appeal.
The Aug. 11 decision from the Manitoba Health Appeal Board came following the woman’s second appeal of the province’s refusal to pay for the procedure.
The woman, who is not identified in the decision, made her first request with Manitoba Health’s insurance division in late 2019. At the time, she had already been diagnosed with gender dysphoria and was taking feminizing hormone therapy, the decision said.
The woman testified that her dysphoria, which is focused mainly on what her face looks like, causes her great anxiety and makes her fear for her physical safety.
As a result, she “does not participate in society and is overly guarded in her relationships to the extent of not having much of a life outside her home and cannot plan for her future,” the decision said.
Fenske said the woman feels “that her face is the first thing people see and the first thing people read when trying to understand her gender identity.”
“Having, for her, a face that she felt was male-appearing really impacted her mental health.”
The woman saw medical and psychological professionals who recommended she get surgery to make her facial features more feminine — which the decision describes as a highly specialized gender-affirming procedure offered by few clinics and doctors across Canada.
While Manitoba Health said it would cover the cost of surgeries if the woman wanted to change her genitalia, it denied her request for coverage for facial surgery, deeming it not medically required.