When 26-year-old Imogen Lloyd tried to get treatment at a gender identity clinic in England, she was told there would be almost a three-year wait before her first appointment.
“It was a shock. I felt disappointed and disillusioned. It was a lonely time, a point in my life when I’d finally decided to seek help and was told about a long wait,” she said.
Lloyd struggled with depression and anxiety throughout her childhood and teenage years but it was only when she went to university that she looked into getting help. “Before then, there was pressure from family. But when I was away and started my own life properly I had freedom to think about life more … I decided to try to talk to someone,” she said.
“I met a psychologist and talked to them and they offered a bit of advice about where to start research. I also became friends with someone trans before I came out as well. Their advice was so useful.”
After six months on an NHS waiting list, Lloyd decided to go private, and since then her mental health has improved dramatically. “One of my friends went to a private clinic. They were actually getting seen by professionals, getting psychologically analysed and getting medicine. They do what the gender identity clinic does but they don’t have waiting lists of more than a month,” she said.
But the cost of going private took its toll. “It’s not the most expensive [service], but it’s still a monthly expenditure. I’m still struggling to cope with it,” Lloyd said.
She added that as well as having to wait for an appointment, she had already been delayed by a GP who refused to refer her. “They were uncomfortable. They’ve never had any medical training about transitioning and stuff. They would not help me and they would not advise anyone at the surgery to help me. The only other GP I could get to was thankfully more accepting.”
Lloyd thinks the government needs to invest more money in this area. “NHS England need to properly review their services and work with the people who are using private therapy or mental health therapy services rather than trying to put up barriers.
“My voice therapist also worked at the gender identity clinic and she said that even before this influx, they were already understaffed. That’s why they have a three-year, four-year waiting list in some places, which obviously is an obscenely long amount of time to get seen by any NHS professional.”
In England, Lloyd said, to get a new passport you need a medical letter. “If I were to wait for that letter from the gender identity clinic, I’d still be waiting two and a half years and I wouldn’t be able to change my gender or sex on any legal records.
“After the official gender and sex amendment by HMRC you’ve got to change your bank personal details, which is really important for credit and financial history, employment HR records, everything else that has your name and gender info.”
Lloyd is now in a much better place because she is getting the right support. “I just want to highlight how depressing and frustrating the whole waiting-list situation is,” she said. “It feels like government-wise, no one really cares.”