Ontario SRS De/Relisting Project Interviews: Rupert Raj & Anna Travers

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As you may have read in our previous posts, this summer we have been conducting a number of oral history interviews focusing on the 1998 delisting and 2008 re-listing of sex reassignment surgeries in Ontario. This July our team had the pleasure to finish up the series of interviews with Rupert Raj and Anna Travers, two integral activists in the fight to have SRS relisted in Ontario, and major figures in trans healthcare in Ontario since.

two men stand in front of a stained glass window

Rupert Raj and Nick Matte

Rupert Raj has worked as a trans activist since the 1970s, as well as a trans medical professional since the 1990s. Along with sharing his experiences regarding the formation of the Trans Health Lobby Group, his work alongside Susan Gapka as a principal investigator in the Ontario Public Health Association’s Trans Health Project, and his involvement with groups such as EGALE and Rainbow Health, Rupert also gave us personal insight into his experiences navigating the health system while transitioning over the span of four decades. Rupert spoke passionately about the need for barrier free trans health care even after the 2008 relisting, citing gatekeeping, lack of resources, and the lack of OHIP approved SRS clinics as just some of the currently existing barriers.

Anna Travers has served as a fierce ally for trans health rights, and was spoken highly about throughout our series of interviews by many different interviewees. Anna spoke at length about her experiences working with George Smitherman to develop a proposal for Rainbow Health Ontario, as well as working with CAMH and in the community to address gaps and needs in trans health care. Travers’ work has been integral to the formation of trans health care infrastructure in Ontario, and her experiences gave great insight into the ways that the work done between 1998 and 2008 has continued into the present day.

a man and a woman stand in front of a stained glass window

Nick Matte & Anna Travers

We were lucky to have the chance to interview Rupert and Anna in succession, as their histories and experiences complimented the other’s very well. Both shared their activist knowledge and lived experiences with us, as well as the perspective of working on the inside as a health provider for trans individuals. Both Rupert and Anna played a key role in promoting and growing trans health care infrastructure, and both worked at the Sherbourne Health Centre pre and post relisting, Anna from 2001 to 2016, and Rupert from 2002 until early 2017*. The Sherbourne Health Centre has served a key role in providing the infrastructure for trans and queer health in Toronto, largely in relation to the sheer amount of trans folk who inquired at the clinic after not being able to access hormones or surgery elsewhere. Rupert spoke about the major backlog that the SHC experience post relisting, exemplifying that the effects of the 1998 delisting didn’t end in 2008.

Next week our blog will focus on reflecting on the SRS Delisting and Relisting Interview project as a whole, and will feature reflections from project leader Nicholas Matte, as well as the rest of the team.

*Rupert Raj is on Long Term Disability and is not currently working at the Sherbourne Health Centre. He will formally retire February 2017.