By Julie Hjorth, Osteopath – Ferguson St Osteopathy in Williamstown and Dr Antje Theilhaber, GP – Eleanor Clinic in Footscray
Being able to access truly safe and inclusive healthcare is often life-saving for Trans and Gender Diverse (TGD) people. Being TGD is a part of the natural spectrum of human diversity according to the Royal Children’s Hospital gender service here in Melbourne and leading health institutions worldwide, and the experience of stigma and discrimination for these people can lead to dangerous delays in seeking health advice and support.
TGD people have significantly higher rates of depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicide than the general population and having access to a trusted team of health providers can make a big difference. This has become even more pressing with mental health concerns further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thankfully in the West, a small but vibrant network of gender affirming services are available and growing. Ferguson Street Osteopathy and Eleanor Clinic are just two of many that support TGD clients in the West, while in the city Equinox and Thorn Harbour are trail blazers for inclusive health care.
Care should be always be taken to ensure that trans and gender diverse people feel welcome, supported and safe from discrimination. For practitioners, this means not addressing TGD people like they are anyone else, as their experience is unique and they may have additional barriers such as incorrect naming and gendering on Medicare card and health records.
This awareness and sensitivity can be extended to other marginalised populations who may face similar inequality in health care, for example those experiencing domestic violence, people seeking asylum, people with history of sexual, physical or psychological abuse or individuals with social phobias. We must ensure providers have a trauma-informed approach and utilise situation-specific informed consent while respecting the self-determination and autonomy of all their patients.
It is imperative that all medical and allied health clinics in Australia put themselves in the shoes of their clients and consider the hurdles that TGD identifying patients often have overcome to not only seek their service, but to follow through with their health treatment.
Let’s make the Inner West leaders of inclusion and encourage an embracing and empathetic attitude amongst all health providers.
What can you do?
If you’re a health service provider or a customer at a health service, encourage the business to adopt some simple strategies:
- Undergo inclusive practice training
- Educate staff on the use of preferred pronouns
- Update intake paperwork to include diverse gender and pronoun options
- Ensure all staff are never presumptive about anyone’s gender, identity or sexuality
What can TGD people in the west do?
You can search for gender affirming providers at: https://auspath.org.au/providers/#VIC
Connect with organisations like Minus 18, Zoe Belle and Rainbow Health Australia
RCH gender clinic: https://www.rch.org.au/kidsinfo/fact_sheets/Gender_dysphoria/