Disrespectful health care for trans people

There is an urgent need to prioritise health resources and services to support the sexual health and wellbeing of transgender (‘trans’) and gender diverse people.

A new report from the Kirby Institute at UNSW Sydney, found that more than half of trans and gender diverse people who participated in the survey had experienced sexual violence or coercion. That’s a rate four times higher than the general Australian population.

The survey also found that less than half of people who experienced sexual violence or coercion reported it to someone or otherwise sought help.

“This important study highlights a need for policy, procedure and practice in Australian sexual assault services to be more visible, inclusive and responsive to the needs of trans and gender diverse people,” says Eleanor Freedman from the Northern Sydney Sexual Assault Service.

Less than half experienced inclusive sexual health care

The survey also found high rates of marginalisation when accessing care related to sexual health.

“Less than half of our participants said they’d experienced inclusive and respectful care for sexual health. Importantly, less positive experiences in care were associated with lower testing rates for sexually transmissible infections amongst sexually active participants,” says Teddy Cook, from the Kirby Institute and Trans & Gender Health Equity for ACON.

“Providers of sexual health care need to better understand the broad spectrum of gender diversity, and must not make assumptions about their patients’ genders, bodies, sexual orientations or sexual partners,” he says.

The survey also revealed a number of practices that place trans and gender diverse people at particular risk of HIV and other sexually transmissible infections.

“Only half of our participants reported having a recent sexual health screen and the majority reported inconsistent condom use with casual partners,” says Cook. “These factors, along with poor experiences in care related to sexual health, can heighten vulnerability to HIV and other STIs.”

The largest study of trans and gender diverse people to date

The survey collected data from more than 1,500 participants, the largest study of trans and gender diverse people to have been conducted in Australia to date.

It was the first national study designed to examine sexual health and wellbeing among trans and gender diverse people, and it was conducted in close collaboration with community partners.

Survey participants were asked a diverse array of questions about topics related to their sexual health and wellbeing, including dating, sex, sexual health care, sexual violence and coercion, pleasure, relationship satisfaction and marriage.

“While some of the survey results are deeply concerning, we also found that many trans and gender diverse people lead happy sexual and romantic lives,” says another study investigator Shoshana Rosenberg.

“Trans and gender diverse people engage in a wide range of sexual practices, we get married and divorced, look for sex and love online and offline, and form partnerships with people of all genders. In this way, we are quite like the rest of Australia.”

Rosenberg went on to say: “Australia’s sexual health policies, guidelines and services require a lot of work to improve health in this domain. Sexual health is a key factor in our overall health and wellbeing, which is why it is great that, for the first time, we have data to guide this important work.”

Read the report here.

This article was first published on Australia’s Science Channel, the original news platform of The Royal Institution of Australia.

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