Many transgender Australians avoid healthcare out of fear of discrimination and abuse and it’s putting their lives at risk, new research has found.
La Trobe University PhD student Lucille Kerr surveyed 537 trans and gender diverse people across the country on their experiences in the Australian health system.
“We’ve found people being refused care, experiencing significant mistreatment, and having to educate their own doctors,” Ms Kerr said.
“Although some reported having found understanding, well-informed doctors, most of our findings are concerning. Some are deeply worrying.
“We urgently need widespread training and education within the healthcare system.”
One participant, a trans man suffering lung cancer, described hospital staff stripping and scrubbing him with no privacy.
A nearby patient’s family took photographs, and they also later shared the photos online.
The patient said the family then physically threatened his life.
“They said I was a waste of space and they were going to kill me,” he told the researchers.
“I kept trying to relay to the nurses and the doctors that my life was being threatened… They thought I was hallucinating.
“Eventually the dude came with an axe… A nurse who stopped him, she just said to him, ‘You can’t bring that in here’.”
Another trans man described his ongoing frustration with hospital staff continually deadnaming him.
He objected to a nurse assigning him to a women’s ward. But the nurse told him, “You were born a woman, you will behave like a woman.”
After this, the patient cancelled all post-operative appointments and vowed never to return, even if it killed him.
Transgender Australians educating their own doctors on health issues
The shocking accounts are contained in the new report TRANScending Discrimination in Health and Cancer Care.
According to the research, 59 per cent said fear of mistreatment prevented them from accessing healthcare.
Also, 41 per cent of those requiring emergency care had at some point avoided going because they were trans or gender diverse.
Participants reported many barriers to accessing healthcare. Sixty-nine per cent said an inability to find a doctor they were comfortable with had stopped them from seeking help.
Almost a third reported having to educate their healthcare provider on trans or gender diverse issues.
“These patients deserve the same level of dignity and respect as other patients,” Ms Kerr said.
“But at the moment, that’s not always happening.
“The majority of trans and gender diverse people will not always disclose their gender in a healthcare setting because they’re afraid of mistreatment.
“And the healthcare system does not collect meaningful data on gender.
“This means that their needs frequently go unconsidered, and this results in poorer health and wellbeing for this community.”
If this has brought up issues for you, support is available from QLife on 1800 184 527 or online at QLife.org.au or Lifeline on 13 11 14.
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