Only three Australian specialists are trained in sexual reassignment surgery. None practice in Queensland, so the estimated 5000 transpeople living in Queensland must travel interstate or overseas if they can afford the surgery. Ahile some of the procedures are partially covered by Medicare, the high costs of surgery and private health insurance means that treatment is out of reach for many.
A male-to-female gender reassignment procedure costs up to $20,000, with female to male operations costing much more.
PFLAG national spokesperson Shelley Argent, on behalf of a number of trans organisations, is urging federal MPs in Canberra to take the health needs of Australia’s transgender community into consideration.
"Part of this includes the right for people to be able to live as their true gender which they can only be obtained by hormone treatment and reassignment surgery," Argent said. "We are calling on the Federal Government to see this as a valid concern to the family of a transperson and the transperson as an individual."
"Many continue to struggle without success to achieve their goal to transition. It needs to be understood that it’s traumatic for transpeople to wake top everyday, look in the mirror and see the wrong face or body standing before them."
Argentina recently passed legislation allowing transgednered Argentinians access to gender reassignment surgeries as part of their public or private health care plans. The bill requires the government to subsidize the cost of surgery, hormone treatment, and other procedures.
Argentina joins Cuba, Brazil, the UK and the Netherlands with their government support for trans health.
Research has found that many tradespeople in Australia who don’t receive the treatment they need reach such a high level of emotional distress they resort to self-mutilation or suicide.
Shelley Argent argues that neglecting to completely subsidize gender reassignment surgery may cost the Government more in the long term.
‘Research shows in other countries that assist tradespeople with the reassignment surgery, they move quickly into society and then get on with their lives, giving back with their taxes and talents," Argent said. "Why can’t that happen here?"
For Queensland transgender information and support, contact Australian Transgender Support Association Queensland at www.atsaq.com