AUSPATH POSITION ON AFFIRMATIVE MODEL OF CARE
The Australian Professional Association for Trans Health (AusPATH) is an organization which actively promotes communication and collaboration amongst professionals involved in the health, rights and well-being of people who identify as trans, including gender diverse and non-binary (TGDNB). As such, we acknowledge and applaud contemporary research in this field which informs a better understanding of how best to assist TGDNB people of all ages.
An affirmative model of care for children and young people who identify as TGDNB is standard clinical practice in Australia and NZ. In 2017, AusPATH endorsed the Australian standards of care and treatment guidelines for transgender and gender diverse children and adolescents, a guideline based on empirical scientific evidence and expert clinical consensus. This was published in the Medical Journal of Australia and later endorsed through an editorial in The Lancet. As The Lancet editorial states, “Children and adolescents with gender dysphoria often experience stigma, bullying, and abuse, resulting in high rates of mental illness, including depression, anxiety, and self-harm. But with supportive, gender-affirming management, as laid out by the Australian guidelines, these consequences can be minimised.”
Gender-affirming care encourages clinicians to listen to the child or adolescent, and their families, and to support them to explore and express their identity as they wish to do so. For children who desire to socially transition, research demonstrates that following transition, these children can demonstrate levels of emotional functioning and self-worth which is comparable to their cisgender peers, and clinical observation supports the role of social transition in ameliorating distress within this population. Social and medical transition in adolescents is also associated with improved mental health outcomes as well as educational and vocational attainment equivalent to their cisgender peers.
There is extensive evidence that psychological practices undertaken in an attempt to change a person’s gender identity to be more aligned with the sex assigned at birth (known as conversion or reparative therapies) lack efficacy, are considered unethical and can cause harm to people’s health and well-being. Denying or withholding care is also potentially harmful and should not be considered a neutral stance. Any group or organisation that promotes practices that deny a person the opportunity to express their gender identity and access support and medical intervention to improve their health and well-being should not be endorsed nor their practices condoned.
ANZPATH Executive Committee