Transgender people experiencing high rates of sexual violence

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Over half of transgender and gender diverse Australians have been victims of sexual violence or coercion, according to a new Kirby Institute report.

The 2018 Australian Trans and Gender Diverse Sexual Health Survey involved 1,613 people and is the largest study of its kind. The report was launched in Perth on Tuesday.

The study found an urgent need to prioritise health resources and services to support the sexual health and wellbeing of trans and gender diverse people, the research team said.

More than half (53 per cent) of the trans and gender diverse respondents had experienced sexual violence or coercion. That rate is four times higher than the general Australian population.

Almost 70 per cent of respondents who experienced sexual violence or coercion also reported multiple episodes of the abuse. This is compared to 45.3 per cent in the general population.

But less than half of people who experienced sexual violence or coercion reported it or sought help.

Dr Eleanor Freedman from the Northern Sydney Sexual Assault Service responded to the data. She said sexual assault services must be more visible, inclusive and responsive to trans and gender diverse people.

Transgender people struggle to find inclusive healthcare

Meanwhile, less than half of respondents experienced inclusive and respectful care for sexual health.

Issues ranged from bureaucratic problems like inappropriate gender options on forms to invasive questions and inappropriate touching.

“Less than half of our participants said they’d experienced inclusive and respectful care for sexual health,” researcher Teddy Cook said.

“Importantly, less positive experiences in care were associated with lower testing rates for STIs among sexually active participants.

“Only half of our participants reported having a recent sexual health screen. The majority reported inconsistent condom use with casual partners.

Cook said providers of sexual health care need to better understand the broad spectrum of gender diversity.

“[They] must not make assumptions about their patients’ genders, bodies, sexual orientations or sexual partners,” Cook said.

‘Global storm of transphobia has reached Australia’

Writing in The Guardian, the team behind the study said most participants reported experiencing gender incongruence in their mid-teens.

But it took them an average of eight years to tell anyone else about that experience.

“Most trans and gender-diverse people may be negotiating the secrecy and confusion that often comes with a lack of disclosure for upwards of a decade,” they warned.

“Trans and gender-diverse people deserve to feel seen, supported and able to exist on their own terms and in a form that affirms them, without fear of violence or judgment.

“We hope the findings of this and future research will continue to do that work and break down barriers.”

The researchers warn “the political and media storm of transphobia and misinformation” in recent years has reached Australia.

“It feels good to have more data than ever behind us while fighting these narratives at home and at work, in doctors’ offices and courtrooms, and in parliaments around the country,” they said.

“This report is a call for policymakers, health promoters and service providers to take note of these findings, and to take action.”

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Jordan Hirst
Jordan Hirst

Jordan Hirst is an experienced journalist and content creator with a career spanning over a decade at QNews. Since 2012, the Brisbane local has covered an enormous range of topics and subjects in-depth affecting the LGBTIQA+ community, both in Australia and overseas. Today, the Brisbane-based journalist covers everything from current affairs, politics and health to sport and entertainment.

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