When Bobbie Pearson was asked to tell a health-care tribunal what it meant to finally make the transition from a man to a woman at the age of 57, she drew a deep breath and tried not to cry.
"I'm very much aware of the fact that my whole life I was hiding behind a curtain, so to speak," she began.
"People say it must feel different – but it doesn't," she added later. "I feel like myself. I feel authentic."
Ms. Pearson testified Wednesday before Ontario's Health Services Appeal and Review Board (HSARB), a quasi-judicial panel that hears appeals of rejections from the Ontario Health Insurance Plan.
She hopes to convince the panel to overturn OHIP's decision to deny her coverage for the $20,000 genital surgery she underwent in Pennsylvania last month – a procedure the government would have paid for if she had first obtained an approval letter from the Adult Gender Identity Clinic at Toronto's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.
Ms. Pearson first requested an appointment at CAMH in April, 2014. Since then, she has not heard back from the clinic, which is grappling with a waiting list of 970 people, most seeking pre-operative approval for sex reassignment surgery.
Ms. Pearson is the latest transgender patient to go public with her concerns about the queue at CAMH, and she is doing so against the backdrop of Toronto's annual Pride festival.
Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins said two months ago that he had already asked ministry officials to look into fixing the problem, possibly by allowing other clinics and health professionals in the province to approve candidates for sex reassignment surgery.
But the Liberal government has yet to take any action.
In an e-mailed statement Tuesday, the minister said he hopes to announce a solution soon.
"I'm proud of the work our government has done to support the LGBTQ community, but we recognize that there is more we need to do. It can be a difficult time psychologically for individuals experiencing gender dysphoria, and we owe it to them to ensure that they're treated in a timely fashion."
That was not good enough for the NDP's health critic, who argued in an open letter to Dr. Hoskins Wednesday that his government has known about the problem for years and failed to act.
"Your government's policy has significant consequences for the lives of trans Ontarians," France Gélinas wrote. "After waiting for two or more years on a wait list, individuals are required to travel from across the province to CAMH in Toronto. Those who cannot wait for years to begin their transition are forced to travel out of province and pay out of pocket for these necessary procedures."
As for Ms. Pearson, she is now waiting for the HSARB to issue a ruling. A decision is not expected for weeks at the earliest.
If she loses, she intends to take her case to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, where she has already filed a complaint.
"It's difficult any time I tell the story … it's a combination of growing up being taught that boys don't cry and it is emotional for me," Ms. Pearson said after the hearing. "Sometimes I'm just overwhelmed by the fact that I'm finally emerging from the other side of this journey."