The surge in demand means that waiting lists have got a lot longer and the centre is struggling to cope. At present waiting times have risen to 18 months.
Last year over 600 people contacted the centre. Due to demand it is now taking 18 months before transgenders can get an appointment to discuss treatment or surgery.
Prof Guy T’Sjoen is the head of the centre and readily admits the present waiting time is unmanageable.
“Treatment can only start after a first appointment. This is tragic for adults, who have been considering this for a while, but also for youngsters struggling with this issue. We’re not leaving people to their own devices. There is local help.”
“We’re trying to motivate other centres to provide similar help. A long waiting list like ours is unmanageable. Fortunately, a new initiative is starting at a hospital in Genk (Limburg).”
Extra centres are also needed in Brussels and Wallonia. “Both regions are behind” says Prof T’Sjoen. “Transgenders from Brussels and Wallonia often head to Ghent.”
The centre head believes a change in the law from 2018 that means you don’t need surgery or to be able to prove you are in treatment to change your gender on your ID is the reason for the surge in interest. The centre’s reputation and the interest generated by role models including Bo Van Spilbeeck are also credited.