A Guide to Medical Transition

BY Margot Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Some info you might find useful if you're trans

Medical transitioning is when a trans person makes the decision to access medical options, such as hormones, surgery or behaviour training to feel more comfortable in their own skin. These options can have a big impact on the way a person expresses their gender. 

Medical transitioning isn’t about ‘fitting in’. Sure, that can be part of it, but it’s really about doing what helps you feel most comfortable personally. Keep in mind that it’s not for everyone - lots of trans and gender diverse people have no interest in or access to medically transitioning. Surgeries and other treatments are just tools to help achieve what feels right to you, and shouldn’t ever be seen as essential to being a ‘real’ man, woman or anything else.

Getting Started

Step 1: Go to your GP to get a referral to a psychiatrist or other professional who specialises in gender therapy. This can be your family doctor, or someone at an LGBTI health clinic like Northside Clinic or Prahran Market Clinic. If you’re under 18 the Royal Children’s Hospital and Monash Gender Clinic both have support services available for trans young people. If you can’t find a local service, but have a supportive GP, they can contact Northside Clinic to access advice on how to better support you. 

Seeing a psychiatrist may seem like a big step, and your experience may be varied, but it’s important to remember that at no stage are you locked in. If you’re not happy with your sessions or don’t feel they’re right for you, you’re absolutely able to seek support elsewhere. 

When under 18, the first medical option available to you is to you is puberty blockers. They’re most effective for people in the early stages of puberty, if you’re younger it’s definitely worth discussing with your doctor. Accessing puberty blockers requires psychiatrist approval, parental consent from both parents, and an endocrinologist.Puberty blockers can stop your body developing things like breasts or an ‘adam’s apple’, and basically give you a bit more time to figure things out. It’s also a reversible treatment. 

If you’re interested, once you’re 18 you can start hormone replacement therapy (HRT). This is when you adjust hormone levels in your body to better reflect your identity. Beginning HRT under 18 years of age is tricky, and requires a ruling from the Family Court.  

Surgery

Surgery is something you might consider too, and while it isn’t for everyone, for some it can be hugely beneficial. For chest and genital surgeries you will need additional approvals from your psychiatrist. At present, both top surgery (surgery on your chest) and genital surgery can’t actually be performed on anyone under 18 years of age in Victoria. Cosmetic surgeries such as nose or chin reconstructions are not subject to special restrictions. 

Speech Pathology

Another option that might not seem apparent is speech pathology. For me, my voice sometimes made me uncomfortable, and my doctor recommended checking it out and seeing how I felt. Speech Pathology is vocal training to help change the pitch of your voice and speech patterns to something you’re more comfortable with. The best thing about this one is there’s no restrictions around age or who can access it. La Trobe University has a speech pathology clinic that specialises in voice training for trans people.

Accessing Services 

If you’re under 18 and don’t have the support of your parents/guardians medical transition can be a challenge. Under the law parental consent and support is critical to any medical treatment. Access to services in regional areas can also be limited or not available. In these cases there are still ways to get support online through communities like Minus18 and Ygender, as well as counselling chat services like Switchboard and QLife. Connecting with other people and talking about what you’re going through can be a great source of support.

Keeping Track

Documenting your transition can be a pretty empowering thing that some people decide to do. 

Since changes can occur over a long period of time, taking photos or recording a vlog gives you the opportunity to watch your progress back. Seeing how far you’ve come is a great way to keep motivated, and sharing your progress with others can help them better understand the process.

Go At Your Own Pace

Take all the time you need until you’re ready before undergoing any treatments, but keep in mind that starting the conversations early helps you get better informed and means you don’t have to wait as long once you’re sure.

The treatments available are constantly improving, and while we still have a way to go, there’s a lot of great options and support out there.

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