The efficacy of community leadership: Trans Health South Australia - a community resource, by the community
Zac Cannell – Sexual Health Counsellor, SHINE SA
Sean Miller – Peer Support Worker/Volunteer Coordinator, Trans Wellbeing Service, SHINE SA
The state of South Australia has had a long history of political blockades and community confusion to service provision for the trans and gender diverse community. This has rippled out to medical and community practitioners who may then be unsure about who can provide a service and how this can be done safely. Much of the confusion in SA can be attributed to the creation and implementation of the Sex Reassignment Act 1988 (SA) which, although considered progressive 29 years ago, was repealed in late 2016 as it had numerous areas of concern for the community. For decades, this piece of legislation hindered the community in accessing services and led to the belief that less than a handful of doctors could provide a service to those questioning their gender or wishing to medically transition, causing increased wait times and increased financial costs for those accessing care.
However, this changed when a number of transgender-identified people in SA sought to clarify the legislation and then work to rebuild community knowledge and engagement. It led to the abolishment of the Act and the creation of Trans Health South Australia. This website, found at www.transhealthsa.com, became the first of its kind in the nation. It is a resource aimed at professional service providers, the gender diverse community and their other supports, and is independently funded and operated by the transgender community.
This resource has grown and evolved over the last 18 months and includes the SA Practitioners’ List - a list of local practitioners who are trans sensitive, many of whom specialise in the treatment of Gender Dysphoria. Although Transgenderism is no longer considered a mental illness, a Gender Dysphoria diagnosis is needed for an individual to access certain medical treatments. Community members can recommend a practitioner for the list, but practitioners are also able to nominate themselves for the list, which has so far, resulted in a steady increase in professionals listed.
Trans Health South Australia has been created with the belief that people have a basic human right to choose the practitioners involved in their care and for that care to be based on an informed consent model. The site has a growing list of medical and legal, and transition-specific resources that can help a gender diverse person work to reduce their dysphoria and to increase their knowledge of medical and legal options, in addition to local social groups. This helps reduce isolation and the often debilitating effects of stigma, discrimination and transphobia.
The Trans Health South Australia site has averaged 1,200 times hits per month for over a year now and shows trends of increasing each month. These numbers not only provide us with proof that the website and its resources are greatly needed, but also that there are thousands of South Australians and others who are gender diverse people or questioning their gender as well as others seeking information and support, including medical and community service professionals. Furthermore, as it is a website created and managed by local gender diverse community members themselves, it has the capacity to respond both effectively and rapidly to the needs of the local trans/gender diverse community. This has been demonstrated by multiple emails having been received with content varying from adding new practitioners, students requesting information for classroom assignments through to health services seeking guidance and information.