Trans youth fac­ing health­care chal­lenges

Central Leader - - NEWS - By DANIELLE STREET

Trans­gen­der teens are fac­ing sig­nif­i­cant hur­dles when ac­cess­ing health care, ac­cord­ing to a study be­lieved to be a world-first.

Re­searchers from the Univer­sity of Auck­land in­ter­viewed more than 8000 high school stu­dents around New Zealand for the Youth ’12 study.

In re­sponse to gen­der-based ques­tions 1.2 per cent de­scribed them­selves as trans­gen­der and a fur­ther 2.5 per cent said they were un­sure about their gen­der.

Lead re­searcher Ter­ryann Clark says the find­ings rep­re­sent a small but sig­nif­i­cant group.

‘‘Now we know from this study that there ac­tu­ally are prob­a­bly a lot of young people out there who are ques­tion­ing, think­ing about their gen­der but just never nec­es­sar­ily talk to any­body about it,’’ she says.

Around two-thirds of these stu­dents had not pre­vi­ously dis­closed their gen­der to any­one.

Dr Clark says stu­dents who iden­ti­fied as trans­gen­der re­ported com­pro­mised men­tal health and per­sonal safety and de­scribed more dif­fi­culty when ac­cess­ing health care.

Nearly 20 per cent had at­tempted sui­cide in the pre­vi­ous year and nearly 50 per cent had been phys­i­cally abused.

The study is be­lieved to be the first na­tion­ally rep­re­sen­ta­tive sur­vey to re­port on the over­all health and well-be­ing of trans­gen­der young people. It con­cludes that schools, health ser­vices, and com­mu­ni­ties must con­sider trans­gen­der youth rep­re­sent an im­por­tant pop­u­la­tion that has spe­cific needs.

Re­cent high school grad­u­ate Shane was born as a fe­male but dur­ing his fi­nal year of school he started iden­ti­fy­ing as ‘‘gen­der fluid’’.

Shane chooses to dress in a mas- cu­line way and most days will bind his breasts.

‘‘With the school uni­form I was re­ally lucky, they were per­fectly OK with me dress­ing in pants and a tie.’’

The sup­port­ive at­mos­phere of his school also re­sulted in Shane be­ing able to use the teach­ers’ bath­rooms in­stead of hav­ing to choose be­tween the male and fe­male toi­lets.

For the most part Shane has had sup­port from his com­mu­nity, but he knows it’s not al­ways the case.

‘‘I know quite a few people that have been bul­lied,’’ he says.

‘‘I’m re­ally lucky I think be­cause I look like quite a fem­i­nine male, I do get mis­taken as a gay male, which I don’t mind.’’

The Lyn­field res­i­dent says train­ing for teach­ers and health pro­fes­sion­als would be a big step to­wards ac­com­mo­dat­ing young people who are ne­go­ti­at­ing their gen­der.

It’s an opin­ion shared by Dun­can Matthews from Rain­bow Youth, an or­gan­i­sa­tion pro­vid­ing sup­port, in­for­ma­tion and ad­vo­cacy for queer and trans* young people.

Mr Matthews says it rep­re­sents a grow­ing aware­ness sur­round­ing is­sues about gen­der iden­tity.

He says prob­lem­atic ac­cess to health care for trans people of all ages was iden­ti­fied in a Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion paper in 2008, but lit­tle has come out of the re­port.

Photo: DANIELLE STREET

Stu­dent sup­port: Rain­bow Youth gen­eral man­ager Dun­can Matthews says ex­tra train­ing for med­i­cal staff and teach­ers would help trans­gen­der pupils.

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