Donna Skelly spoke to a woman considered one of the world’s most influential transgender advocates, about her journey and her fight for the rights of others in her community. Dr. Carys Massarella is a highly respected emergency room physician at Hamilton’s St. Joseph’s Hospital. She is also transgender.
“I was supposed to be a man, so I acted like a man. I played hockey, I played football…I went to university. I became a doctor like my father. I got married, I had a family. So I did all the things I should be doing.”
But she said she knew she was living a lie. Seven years ago, while working at St. Joes, she made a decision to begin the process to transition from male to female. “It was a really difficult thing. I thought I’d lose my job, I thought I’d lose my family…I thought I’d lose my friends.” But she didn’t. In fact, Massarella says her parents, partner, children , friends and colleagues all supported her decision. “I must say, my American colleagues…every time I tell them I did this at a Catholic hospital they are like ‘no you didn’t’ and I’m like ‘yes I did.”
She says the number one issue facing transgender people today is access to health care. She operates the only transgender care clinic in the region. “I have my clinic in St. Catharines. The majority of patients I see are from Hamilton. And i’m getting an average of 5 to 8 new referrals a week…250 to 400 referrals a year. I do this one day a week, I cannot do 250 to 400 referrals a year.” As for societal acceptance of transgender people? Massarella says big strides have been made, but there is still a long way to go.
“You have nothing to fear from transgender people. Transgender people are lovely, they want to experience life fully in their gender and if you get to know a transgender person you might actually like them.”