PrideAM calls for agencies, marketers to introduce gender affirming insurance

PrideAM, the organization representing 2SLGTQ+ people in the advertising industry, is calling on Canadian agencies and marketers to offer gender affirming insurance as part of their benefit packages, saying that doing so will demonstrate “concrete support” for the transgender community.

The group’s call for action was timed specifically for Pride Month, when many companies, and by extension their agency partners, tend to loudly proclaim their support for the 2SLGTQ+ community.

“Companies generally like to be part of Pride celebrations, but the rest of the year they don’t really take any concrete action towards supporting the community,” said Kaia Kim, PrideAM director and post-producer at Craft Worldwide in Toronto. “We wanted to highlight one concrete action that they can take to show their support.”

Kaia Kim

Gender affirming insurance can cover a range of procedures, from rhinoplasty, electrolysis, facial feminization and masculinization, up to and including sexual reassignment surgery. Some of these procedures can cost thousands of dollars, and most are not covered by provincial healthcare.

“There are avenues to try and pursue some procedures, [but] they are limited,” said Kim. “The issue is that there’s often a lot of red tape, and the process is quite time-consuming. And it does cost quite a lot to pay out-of-pocket for some surgeries and procedures.”

Canadian companies including Accenture Canada, Molson Coors and TD Bank now include gender affirming insurance as part of their benefit packages, although it has not been broadly adopted across any industry sector, including marketing and advertising.

PrideAM is maintaining a list of companies providing this insurance in their benefits packages, and is asking any agency or business introducing the benefit to register via email as it looks to “grow momentum” behind the issue.

Kim said she’s seen a slight shift in receptivity for gender affirming insurance, but that there’s still a long way to go before it is broadly implemented. “It’s starting to become more mainstream, and an issue more people are aware of,” she said. “We’re definitely at the beginning stage, but I can see the momentum shifting.”

PrideAM’s push comes after its “Queer Lived Experience Report 2022″ found high levels of discrimination towards 2SLGBTQ+ people in agencies, with 11% of 2SLGBTQ+ respondents indicating that they have experienced homophobia in their agency, and are 75% more likely to experience sexual harassment.

The report also called for agency leaders and HR departments to create conditions for greater 2SLGBTQ+ inclusion, with financial benefits identified as what it called “a potentially powerful way forward” based on the finding that 19% of 2SLGBTQ+ agency professionals describe their current economic status as “low income,” 29% higher than their non-2SLGBTQ+ peers.

According to a recent report, the global market for sex reassignment surgery is expected to grow at a compound annual rate of 11.5% between 2023 and 2031, noting that the availability of health insurance coverage for various procedures will contribute to that growth.

The most recent Census data listed 56,469 transgender and 41,355 non-binary people in Canada. A 2019 briefing report sent to the House of Commons Standing Committee on LGBTQ2S Health in Canada noted that trans people have “limited access” to gender-affirming surgery in Canada.

“There are a number of out of pocket costs, sometimes thousands of dollars, that prevent individuals from being able to access surgery,” said the report.

Chris Powell