Transgender woman had to tell ATO she’s ‘mentally ill’

queensland transgender woman siobhan frith
Photo: Supplied

A Queensland transgender woman applying for early super in order to fund her transition had to tell the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) she was mentally ill.

Siobhan Frith is a jeweller from Eumundi in the Sunshine Coast hinterland.

She told ABC News when applying for early access to her superannuation, she had to tick a box saying she had a chronic mental illness.

Ms Frith started her transition two years ago. But she discovered undergoing the gender transition surgery she needed would leave her $18,000 out of pocket.

“I would have to re-mortgage my house or wait until I’m 80,” she said.

However, Ms Frith had heard she could access her superannuation early on compassionate grounds.

But an ATO spokesperson has said gender transition surgery generally doesn’t meet medical treatment requirements.

The spokesperson said exceptions only apply if “medical practitioners certify the procedure is associated with treating an acute or chronic mental illness.”

“I’m not mentally ill,” Ms Frith said, “so to tick something to say that’s why you need surgery is pretty much a lie.”

Gender dysphoria declassified by World Health Organisation

Earlier this year the World Health Organisation (WHO) declassified gender dysphoria as a mental disorder.

The WHO’s latest revision of its International Classification of Diseases, known as “ICD-11”, reframed “gender identity disorders” as “gender incongruence”.

The WHO also moved gender incongruence from the list of “mental disorders” to a chapter on sexual health.

Ms Frith said, however, if she didn’t select “chronic mental illness” on her ATO application, she would not have been approved.

“Gender dysphoria is now recognised that it is not a mental illness, it’s biological. [But] if you don’t tick the box, you won’t be getting approved,” she said.

“I ticked the box.”

Peak transgender health body AusPATH has identified the issue as a barrier for transgender people in accessing “lifesaving and essential” healthcare.

“Many patients’ only resource to obtain what can be lifesaving, essential surgical treatment, is their superannuation,” AusPATH said.

‘I can breathe a sigh of relief’

Ms Frith said after making the declaration, the ATO assessed and approved her application very quickly.

“[They were] absolutely brilliant,” she said.

In June, Ms Frith travelled to Thailand to undergo surgery. She said she is now excited to live life as her true self.

“I feel like a different person. When I wake up, I can breathe a sigh of relief,” she said.

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Jade Fitzpatrick

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