Referrals soar at Australia's clinic for transgender youth as support programs get fresh funding

Posted in News

By Monique Schafter

New referrals at Australia's only clinic for transgender young people have risen from one per year in 2003 to 60 so far this year.

Young transgender people under the age of 18 who wish to medically transition currently seek treatment through the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne.

The diagnosis used to describe people born in the wrong body is gender dysphoria, and the clinic is struggling to cope with demand for its services.

Youth worker and transgender man Jeremy Wiggins says a change in society's attitudes could be behind the rise in the number of people seeking help.

"In 2013, the Royal Children's Hospital saw the same number of young people in that one year than the previous 10 years combined," he told 7.30.

"The Royal Children's Hospital expects a 50 per cent increase by the end of 2014.

"In the last couple of years I think there's been a really great change socially, there's more acceptance.

"And we're in this really interesting time now where there's more people accessing services and affirming their identity, and right now we need to build some support services around them."

Transgender people frequently face bullying and discrimination which puts them at a greater risk of mental health problems and in the worst cases, suicide.

Recognising the need for greater support services, the Victorian Government has funded a youth-driven initiative called What Makes An Ally? to help transgender young people.

The project is a joint initiative between TransGender Victoria and youth transgender support organisation, Ygender.

Program 'could save lives'

Mr Wiggins, who was raised as a girl and transitioned to male in his 20s, is managing the project and says it could save lives.

"Young people who are trans and gender diverse are 125 times more likely to attempt suicide than non trans people and that's a really alarming statistic," he said.

"About 8 per cent of the population could be identified as gender diverse - now the reason why we use that term loosely is because not everyone decides that they want to go down a route with medical transition.

"So they might not want to have hormones or surgery, they might just identify fluidly."

Mr Wiggins remembers being bullied at school for being "a bit of a tomboy".

I think if we lived in a society where everyone was valued, the forming of myself and my identity might have happened a bit quicker.
"I was verbally bullied, physically attacked, at times there were even big groups of guys trying to run me off the road with their car," he said.

Young transgender people Canon and Ashley are developing resources for the project, which is aimed at 15 to 25 year olds who are questioning their gender identity.

Canon was born biologically female but was a tomboy who liked riding BMX bikes and wearing boys clothes.

After many years searching for his true identity, Canon accepted that he was male.

"I think if we lived in a society where everyone was valued, the forming of myself and my identity might have happened a bit quicker," he said.

Raised as a boy, Ashley knew from a young age that something was wrong. She battled with her identity and turned to illicit drugs.

When she found the courage to express her femininity she became the target of bullies.

"They would sort of prank call me. They would sort of come to my home and harass me there and when I was just doing things like shopping I would get called names. I got spat at," she said.



Transgender Victoria (TGV) was founded in the late 1990s to achieve justice, equity and quality health and community service provision for trans and gender diverse (TGD) people, their partners, families and friends.

TGV uses TGD to refer to people whose gender identity or expression is different from that which was assigned at birth or that which is expected of them by society.

Support TGV
Donate Online Today

About TGV

Transgender Victoria (TGV) work with and for, the trans and gender diverse (TGD) community as well as its allies, to create positive change in areas that impact the human rights of TGD people. 

TGV represents the TGD community in challenging discrimination and assists to empower TGD people so that they may lead full and meaningful lives.

Read More