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Transgender Health Panel Discussion

Audio from the transgender health panel discussion, held on International Transgender Day of Visibility, 31 March 2021. The event was recorded at the Ministry of Health in Wellington. A special thanks to the organisers and participants for allowing this event to be recorded and shared.

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This recording documents a transgender health panel discussion that was held at the Ministry of Health in Wellington, New Zealand, in observance of International Transgender Day of Visibility. Five experts in the field of transgender health shared their insights: Ahi Wi-Hongi, Amanda Burgess, Bex Canner, Jemima Bullock, and John Fenaughty. The panelists examined pressing issues facing the transgender community, spanning from medical care to social inequities.

The discussion began with the recognition of the challenges in capturing the accurate size of the transgender and non-binary population in New Zealand as data collection was lacking in national census efforts. Estimates suggest that people with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities, and sex characteristics could comprise between 6 and 15% of the population. Findings from the 2018 "Counting Ourselves" survey revealed substantial discrimination against transgender and non-binary individuals, with about a third avoiding medical appointments due to potential disrespect or mistreatment. This discrimination often correlates with high psychological distress within the community.

Panelists discussed a range of issues: 1 - The necessity of puberty blockers for transgender youth, drawing parallels to contraceptives, and the need for accessible, non-discriminatory access to these health services. 2 - The financial burdens that transgender individuals often face—for instance, the costs associated with binders and facial hair removal, which for many are prohibitively expensive and yet are instrumental for their well-being. 3 - The dire state of funding for gender-affirming surgeries, particularly genital reconstruction surgeries, which face a backlog rendering the waiting time unbearably long. The panelists stressed the importance of the Ministry of Health in resolving this issue by funding these procedures adequately to meet demand.

The panel underscored the importance of informed consent and the right of transgender persons to make autonomous decisions about their health care. The necessity for comprehensive and inclusive health care was emphasized, alongside the need for consistent policies and supportive environments across all District Health Boards (DHBs). Additionally, the importance of mental health services, primarily for transgender youth, to alleviate psychological distress was highlighted.

The panel also spoke on the need for more funding for peer-led transgender organizations and community support, indicating that such resources are crucial for improving health outcomes for transgender individuals. Furthermore, there was a clarion call for changes in health information and communication systems, including the diversification of gender options in medical records and databases, to accurately represent and support all gender identities.

In closing, the panel called upon the Ministry of Health to prioritize the following: 1 - Ensuring competent care across all areas of the health system. 2 - Providing clear and consistent guidelines for transgender health care, along with requisite funding. 3 - Addressing the backlog for gender-affirming surgeries, signifying a need for immediate action and funding to relieve the existing strain on the transgender community. 4 - Promoting the de-pathologization of transgender care to ensure equitable treatment, as well as ensuring that primary health care professionals are competent and confident in providing informed consent-based care for transgender individuals.

This summary is created using Generative AI. Although it is based on the recording's transcription, it may contain errors or omissions. Click here to learn more about how this summary was created.


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Record date:31st March 2021
Location:Manatū Hauora Ministry of Health, Wellington
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Archive:The master recording is archived at the Alexander Turnbull Library (OHDL-004648).