Israel: Updating Procedure for Sex-Change

It all started with an email: a huge victory for the trans community in Israel, after a long process of taking part in updating the procedure for sex-change operations with the Ministry of Health ( 39/86 ).

After the elections last year, the trans organization Ma’avarim sent an email requesting help from the Minister of Health in order to revise the policy regarding sex reassignment surgeries in Israel. This policy has not been revised since 1986, and is very outdated. To the community’s surprise, things started to roll. They met with the Minister of Health Yael German, with senior members of the Committee and the Ministry of Health, but didn’t believe that in less than a year things would look so much better.

The policy has been significantly modified, and below is a summary of the biggest changes:

* The purpose of the Committee for Gender Change is primarily to support and accompany the applicants in the process. This will not be a committee whose sole purpose is to approve/ inspect / diagnose readiness for surgery.

* The procedures of the Committee and its criteria will now have full transparency.

* Starting now, the committee will be a national committee of the Ministry of Health, appointed by the Ministry’s Director General and shall not belong to one hospital or another. Every hospital that holds an appropriate surgeon will be able to perform the surgery.

* A representative from the transgender community will be added to the members of the commission will be added, who will help in determining the procedures of the committee, and candidates will have the option to contact the representative with any problem and to consult. Contacting the representative is only an option , not mandatory, in order to protect the privacy of applicants .

* An assessment from mental health therapist is needed, not to “diagnose” one’s transness, but to verify ability to give informed consent, and that person is fit to undergo this process

* The waiting period for the surgery, of “real life experience”, was shortened from two years to a year. In some cases, it will be possible to shorten this year as well.

* Until now, the surgery was available only from the age of 21. Now it is from the age of 18 years (adult by Israeli law) or older.

* Requirement to sign a standard “informed consent” form before surgery, rather than a special form.

* The committee may lift the prerequisite to take hormones in certain cases.

“We would like to thank the Health Minister MK Yael German, a true friend of the community, who has given the green light for this move,” writes trans activist Elisha Alexander and Ma’avarim founder, “to Zehorit Shorek and all the LGBT cell of “Yesh Atid,” to Nora Greenberg, who was active on this topic tirelessly for many years before we were, Dr. Ilana Berger , Dr. Ruthy Goffen and Dr. Gal Wagner from the LGBT clinic of Clalit Medical, attorney Ido Katri and Yael Sinai, Dr. Graciela Carmon , Dr. Boaz Lev, Vice Minister of Health, attorney Mira Huebner who wrote the original procedure in 1986 , to Dr. Avital Weiner Oman, Dr. Siegel Liberant-Taub , Dr. Dalia Gilboa, Head of the Committee, Professor Eyal Winkler, director of plastic surgeries at Sheba Medical Center, and Dr. Marci Bowers. Thanks to all members of the community who approached us and showed interest, consulted , and gave ideas. And a very big thanks to attorney Assaf Wiess that without him, this would not have happened.”

“It turns out that people who are very different from each other are able to sit down together and do good things.”