Trinity students are set to march today outside Leinster House in support of improved transgender healthcare in Ireland, alongside the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) and transgender rights activists.
The protest calls on Minister for Health, Simon Harris, and the Health Service Executive (HSE) to provide adequate, safe and efficient access to healthcare for transgender people in Ireland. It is both a “display of unity and a demand to improve access and services,” according to the protest’s manifesto.
Protesters are marching from Upper Merrion Street, near the Department of the Taoiseach, to Leinster House. The march has been organised by the This Is Me campaign, a student-led grassroots campaign. Founded in January 2018, This Is Me campaigns for the rights of Ireland’s transgender population.
Speaking to Trinity News, Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) LGBT+ Rights Officer Aaron Donnelly explained that “Ireland’s continued refusal to adhere to international guidelines of best practice when treating transgender patients is unacceptable”.
“The system currently in place by the HSE is demeaning, needlessly time-consuming and completely inaccessible. As a cisgender member of the LGBTQ+ community, I stand with the transgender community and encourage all cisgender allies to support transgender individuals in their fight to be heard and respected,” said Donnelly.
Student voices are at the forefront of the protest, with speeches expected from the campaign’s co-founders Noah Halpin and Luke Daly, who both study at Institute of Technology Blanchardstown (ITB). Daly, a business student, is ITB Students’ Union Welfare Officer, while Halpin, who studies social care, is the incoming Chair of ITB’s Colours LGBTQ+ society. Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) LGBT Society Inclusions Officer, Gray Collins is also set to make a speech today.
Speaking to Trinity News, Halpin explained the importance of students in today’s protest. “The student voice and support has been instrumental in the quick growth and awareness of the campaign,” said Halpin. “In any one college, there will always be a wonderful array of diversity, and students are fabulous at embracing that and supporting those around them, which really is a wonderful thing.”
“We have many trans students marching tomorrow and we have many student allies joining their friends in solidarity,” Halpin continued. “The students of today are vocal, recognise when change is needed, and don’t hesitate to stand up and be counted.”
Prominent politicians including Mary Lou Mc Donald and Ruth Coppinger are also expected to speak in support of the campaign today. Mc Donald, leader of the Sinn Féin party, expressed her support for the LGBTQ+ community at the Dublin Pride parade last week. Coppinger, a Solidarity TD, has worked closely with the This Is Me campaign in the past. She has lobbied for improvements to transgender healthcare within Leinster House.
Protesters hope to see changes which have been promised to the This Is Me campaign put into action. They are calling for the international best practice standards of care model to be enacted in Ireland, and for more comprehensive healthcare and surgery options to be made available to transgender people in Ireland.
Speaking to Trinity News, USI Vice-President for Equality and Citizenship, Aisling Cusack, anticipated “lots of public support, both online and on the streets this weekend” for the march. Cusack explained that USI, among other protesters, are “demanding action from the government to improve healthcare for transgender individuals”.
At USI’s Congress last April, members mandated the union to lobby for healthcare professionals to be trained in transgender healthcare needs and issues. Additionally, USI is mandated to lobby the Minister for Health to introduce an informed consent model, which gives transgender patients the power to make their own decisions about treatment choices.
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) and gender reassignment surgeries are necessary services for many transgender people. Protesters believe Ireland’s healthcare system, which often leaves transgender people on waiting lists of up to two years to receive the required treatment, is outdated. The wait time has been attributed to cancelled clinics by consultants and an enforcement of a medical and diagnostic model by the HSE, instead of the informed consent model.
Today marks the second time this year that protesters have taken to the street to campaign for transgender healthcare. In January, a Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) cohort marched alongside USI and activists for improved healthcare services for transgender people. Close to 300 people attended the demonstration.
Speaking on the progress made since January’s march, Cusack stated: “We are awaiting the final report of the Gender Recognition Act review, but we have seen trans issues specifically named in the LGBTI+ youth strategy published before Pride.”
“A number of parliamentary questions have been put to the Minister of State for Health Promotion regarding transgender healthcare and best practice and it has been said that there is satisfaction with the current healthcare system and that it reflects the needs of those who need it,” said Cusack.
“However, if that was the case, we wouldn’t be taking to the streets demanding these necessary improvements and a change of model. The waiting lists for HRT are extensive and there aren’t enough consultants.”
Speaking at a state reception last month on the progression of LGBT+ rights in Ireland, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar noted the importance of the Gender Recognition Act 2015, which recognises legal gender transitions for transgender people in Ireland.