An alliance of health professionals and community members is hosting a conference at the University of Newcastle on Saturday to assist health professionals to respond to a "radical shift" in the number of transgender and gender diverse patients presenting to health services.
Conjoint associate professor Dr Katie Wynne, senior staff specialist of endocrinology at John Hunter Hospital, said gender-affirming hormone therapy, where medication is used to block male hormones and introduce female hormones, or vice-versa, was now one of the most common reasons for referral to her unit, only "second or third" to thyroid issues.
"I think in keeping with all units around the world, probably because of increased visibility and social acceptance, there's been a radical shift in the number of people coming over the past five years," Dr Wynne said.
"We have to do it in our existing capacity, which is a challenge when it's a growing area."
Dr Wynne is the president of the Hunter Gender Alliance. The group is a charity run by health professionals and community members in the region who aim to improve trans and gender diverse people's experience of the health system.
"We have formed a network between gynaecology, urology, reconstructive surgery, mental health, fertility paediatrics and speech therapy services," Dr Wynne said. "Three years ago we launched our transgender and gender diverse health pathway for Hunter New England Health so all GPs in the region have the right questions to ask, and the right tests to perform and who to refer to.
"We really want to educate GPs because that's usually a person's first port of call when they can be feeling quite vulnerable."
The Our Lives conference has two streams. The stream for health professionals will include workshops on primary care, sexual and reproductive health, fertility, paediatrics and how mental health workers can assist clients in building resilience. The workshops have been accredited for up to 12 "continuing professional development" points.
A stream for gender diverse and transgender people only will focus on self expression with art, creative writing and music classes.
Jo Mills, the vice president of the Hunter Gender Alliance, said all the panels throughout the day involved trans and gender diverse speakers. The vice president, who identifies as non-binary, said it was heartening to have registrations from around 150 doctors and specialists, nurses, psychologists, residents and families.
"We want to be speaking with people, not about people. Because [gender diversity] it's not a concept that is purely academic. This is a person's life."
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