A study that I conducted in 2012 with Dr Clemence Due reports on the experiences of Australian transgender people in terms of engaging with health care professionals. 178 people completed the survey. The full findings are available here.

Most participants had accessed a GP at some point in regards to their gender identity, and about a third of the participants had accessed a gynaecologist, pharmacist or sexual health clinic in regards to their gender identity. On average people said that they were happy with the service they received from these professionals, though were less positive about how comfortable they felt when they saw each of the professionals, and less positive about the usefulness of the information they received.

When it came to mental health professionals, half of the participants had seen a counsellor or psychologist in regards to their gender identity, and almost two thirds had seen a psychiatrist. People who responded to the survey were somewhat less positive about their experiences with mental health professionals than they were about general health professionals. Comments that people made about mental health care professionals include:

“I had a bit of an issue with a counsellor refusing to accept that I am a gay man – not sure if this was because I am trans or my partner is or both. The same counsellor tried to get me to talk about my body using female terms which I don’t identify with”.

“Having to educate a professional who does not understand gender issues can lead to a sense of feeling unheard and that can have carry-on effects to the effectiveness of treatments”.

One third of the participants had undertaken surgery related to their gender identity. Two thirds of people who responded said they planned to have either first surgeries or additional surgeries at some point in the near future. The majority of people said they felt happy with the information provided to them prior to surgery, but in general people who had surgery said they were not as happy with the support they received after surgery. Comments about support after surgery include:

“hospital staff are extremely rude and the men’s toilets/showers often are not very private when in shared male wards, which can be a concern about safety with regards atypical anatomy”

“When I had my chest done a nurse kept calling me she”.

A significant number of people who completed the survey reported being concerned with the fact that they had to educate the professionals they engaged with in terms of transgender issues.

Below is a video of Ash Pike and I talking at a conference about healthcare pathways for transgender people in Australia.