Montreal SRS clinic under the radar no more

(Originally published in LGBT Perspectives)

Jillian Page
LGBT Perspectives

MONTREAL — It was one of Montreal’s unheralded facts: the city has the only clinic in Canada that performs sex reassignment surgery (SRS), or gender confirming surgery as it has come to be known, and one of the world’s top surgeons in the field, Dr. Pierre Brassard.

True, many if not most trans people across the country and many around the world were aware of the clinic’s existence and its excellent reputation for both its surgeries and its aftercare.

But the vast majority of Montrealers, Quebecers, Canadians, North Americans and Earthlings around the globe in general were simply unaware that Montreal was one of the best places to go to for gender-confirming procedures. At first glance for anyone who happened upon the Centre Métropolitain de Chirurgie (CMC), it was just another private clinic where various types of plastic surgery are performed — and, indeed, the clinic does do all sorts of plastic surgery, i.e. facelifts, breast implants, etc. Services for trans people are only part of its procedures.

So, when news broke last week that an arsonist had attacked the CMC, the first reports, essentially briefs, in local media — the Montreal Gazette and the Journal de Montreal, to name two — didn’t mention that it is Canada’s only SRS clinic because, quite probably, the journalists handling the story didn’t know. Even if they were aware that Montreal has an SRS facility here, they didn’t know its name or location.

The clinic has tried, for the most part, to “fly under the radar,” Dr. Brassard told the National Post in an article last week.

And it seemed at first that the media were willing to keep it that way last week after the news broke and they became aware of the importance of the clinic to trans people. There was — and still is — no evidence that the attack was an anti-trans hate crime or that anyone was trying to draw attention to SRS services there. Would it be right to out the clinic — and, by extension, so many of its trans patients — for its SRS work before an arrest was made and the attacker’s motive was known? It was a question that responsible editors had to ask for followup coverage — and as a journalist who works for the Gazette, I can tell you that the question was asked there.

Disclosure: I wrote a blog/journal for the paper for many years about trans and LGB issues, and I was deliberately vague about the Montreal clinic. I didn’t mention its name or location because I didn’t want to see Westboro Baptist Church types picketing the place.

Well, the answer last week came from trans people themselves: many complained in social media settings like Facebook and Twitter that the Canadian media were downplaying the SRS angle and the impact of the fire on trans people — not to mention other patients booked into the clinic for things like facelifts.

As trans advocate Morgan Oger told the National Post (see link above), “That someone firebombs a hospital… it sounds a lot like anti-abortion radicals. … I’m not really seeing an uproar about this. It’s been totally played down.”

Foreign media had picked up on the trans angle quickly. And some Canadian media outlets — including the Gazette and the Post — soon decided they had no choice but to report that angle as well. The story had developed; it was more than just an arson attack on a building that sidelined a business temporarily, postponing the surgeries of some patients. It was being viewed as a potential attack on trans people, and it had shaken the trans community across the country. And perhaps most important of all, it highlighted the need for more such facilities in Canada.

As Susan Gapka of the Trans Lobby Group in Toronto told the National Post (see link above), the fire — whether caused by faulty wiring or arson — at the CMC “really highlights the need for more access points. We need public services locally in jurisdictions across Canada.”

No doubt, that might be part of the silver lining in all of this. The need is being highlighted in media reports.

But what about the CMC? Can it ever return to anonymity? Or will it find itself being picketed by anti-LGBT right-wingers when it is up and running again?

Whatever the case, life may never be the same again for those who work for the CMC.

5 thoughts on “Montreal SRS clinic under the radar no more

  1. Given the State of the two major Religions on earth I would put forward that it will take a considerable length of time before it will, if ever, be free of such activity or be considered as acceptable practice in the tribes. I would also ask if the human species is capable of tolerating or recognizing the condition as “natural” to the species? Considering that it carries as much importance as the Scopes Monkey trial of the 20th century, it also has a long way to travel. Staying on subject, I have often wondered how TG people deal with the issue of “I made a mistake, and want o switch back?” Sex is such a thorny problem, for all. And it’s supposed to be enjoyable!? Just “thinking” %O

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    1. Most TG people don’t have SRS. Only a small number do. I have read of cases of a few individuals who regretted having the surgery. In two of those cases, the individuals did not go through the process properly — they skipped therapy and the other things set up to help ensure people are making the right decision.

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      1. Thank you. Perhaps one day it will be discussed properly by the Edu. system and in the classroom, as should sexuality; and not be left as “outside” the norm. But of course, again, very problematic for Religion. Isn’t high time the human race evolved beyond? One would think what has transpired over the past 100 years comparatively to the 10K gone before that we are ready. So much wonderment. So little -time – in a lifetime. Truly, we need to find a way to extend. Mean time, when the h**l will summer ever get here in our neck of the woods!?!? Fort McMurray not %(

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  2. There is an old adage in the IT world; “security by obscurity is no security at all”. It’s only a matter of how much time will pass before someone and then everyone knows the secret, whatever it may be.

    As far as the RWNJs and knuckle-dragging religious zealots are concerned, I am sick-and-tired of them abusing their alleged right to abuse others on the pretext that to not allow them to would be to breach their free speech rights. There is no such thing and never has been such a thing as absolute free speech, as in not shouting fire in a theatre. I think that standing outside an abortion facility or gender re-assignment clinic should just be added to that list of exceptions in recognition of the simple, straight-forward fact that it is sheerly and solely intimidation and harassment and nothing else. Those terms of the 1st Amendment of the US constitution, by dint of the US Supreme Court, are being well-and-truly abused, especially in respect of their original intent, ie that those on government or public authority should not suppress discontent with them, not prevent people from intimidating others. These people have plenty of opportunity, via the press, media and the Internet to make their views very clear without having or needing a right to issue insults and threats to people they don’t like in person.

    It is not just in the US that this disturbing development is happening, but throughout the English-speaking world and there is worrying evidence that much of it is being driven by the same proponents in the US, directly and indirectly exporting their vile hatred and poison to those other countries via material support and strategy briefing. As a UK citizen I would encourage our Home Secretary to ban many of these people from entering the UK in the interests of good public order. We have more than enough of our own home-grown obsessives to be getting on with.

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