Transition Related Surgery: The Fight For Access

2020, Women's College Hospital
activism, LGBT, Pride, Transgender, ​Women’s College Hospital
About This Project

Date: June 2020

Partner: Women’s College Hospital

Location: Sixth Floor of Women’s College Hospital

Project Members: Amelia Smith


Transition Related Surgery: The Fight For Access covers 50 years of transgender history in Ontario. In 1969, transition related surgeries were in a legal grey area, with the removal of healthy organs and tissues being criminalized in the Canadian Criminal Code. 50 years later, Women’s College Hospital became the first public hospital in Canada to perform vaginoplasty, a complex transition-related surgery that involves the creation of a vagina. At the heart is the unilateral delisting of surgery from the Ontario Health Insurance Plan in 1998 by the Provincial government. This moment greatly shaped the transgender community in Ontario for the following decade. Exploring the story that led to this historic moment reveals a resilience and strength that can be looked to today for inspiration.


Transition Related Surgery brings artefacts together from across North America to tell this story. Transgender history, especially Canadian transgender history, is very often fragmented and difficult to piece together. Therefore, this exhibition has been exploring archives and collections from all over the continent to create a cohesive narrative. Some highlights include a pair of pamphlets printed by the Erickson Educational Foundation in the 1970s, a brochure from the Clarke Institute’s Gender Identity Clinic, and a plethora of newspaper articles that deal with transgender issues dating back to 1971 at the earliest.


This exhibition is opening June 2020 on the Sixth Floor at Women’s College Hospital. The location in a hospital is vital. Historically, transgender expertise and scholarship has come from cisgender individuals researching transgender experiences, rather than from transgender people themselves. As such, Transition Related Surgery seeks to bring transgender voices, especially activist voices, into the hospital to tell their side of the story when it comes to the life-changing surgery.