Australian-first study into transgender youth launches

From left to right: Ro Allen, Victorian Commissioner for Gender and Sexuality, Georgie Stone, A/Prof Michelle Telfer, and Sue Hunt CEO of the RCH Foundation.

The Royal Children’s Hospital is about to embark on a 20 year study that is set to change the lives of transgender youth for generations to come.

The Trans20 Project is an Australian-first, 20 year longitudinal study, which is aiming to improve medical and mental health outcomes for transgender youth.

The study is being led by Associate Professor Michelle Telfer, Head of Department of Adolescent Medicine, who said this will enable the current generation of trans and gender diverse children, and adolescents receiving care from the RCH Gender Service, the opportunity to improve the lives of transgender youth in the future.

“We know that the world is a difficult place to be for trans people. So difficult, in fact, that in Australia today, 80 per cent of transgender young self-harm and 48 per cent attempt suicide by the time they are 24-years-old. We hear their difficulties on a daily basis, we see it in our clinics and yet, without the evidence to inform us of what we can do to improve this, we will fail to keep the next generation safe and well,” A/Prof Telfer said.

Longitudinal studies have now commenced in the US and Europe. The RCH Gender Service is well-placed to conduct this type of research on a large, internationally-recognised scale.

More than 300 trans youth have already signed up to be part of the study.

In 2015, the RCH Gender Service was expanded to meet increasing community demand, and referrals to the RCH are on the rise, with more than 250 expected during 2017 alone.

This study is being funded by The Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation.

6 comments for “Australian-first study into transgender youth launches”

  1. Anne Looby

    I would like to know more. I am mum to a healthy 15 yo trans boy. Please contact me
    woth further info.

  2. Sean M

    Would love to hear more. I work in the local trans community.

  3. Michelle Brooker

    Well done. This is such important work
    We need an evidence base to enable rational treatment of trans and gender diverse children

  4. oatc

    A study reporting upon following young patients for 20 years will only be of value 20+ years hence if it includes patients treated according to the protocols used or being proposed then. Your study therefore needs to include patents treated in every better way it can be imagined, that can be ethically approved.

    Self-medication by trans girls using birth control pills, from 12 or so, as now long used in many 2nd world countries, is cheap, self-controlled, & seems – whilst oddly lacking academic studies – to have excellent outcomes, but wouldn’t be optimal. There is no equivalent for trans boys.

    The best that the most clearly transsexual (as in those pleading for a body changed to more match gender identity) children can imagine – and what is available through doctors in some countries but again is crying out for academic studies – is puberty alongside their same-gender peers, preceded by total assurance that the hormones for that will be provided without hesitation. Thus a trans girl who has already long socially transitioned is given the hormones to start her female puberty at the time when most her local & ethnic peers are starting theirs, to minimise her sense of separation from them & any feelings that she is not being affirmed. And a trans boy has his natural puberty stopped, & is given hormones to start his male puberty at the later age that his male peers start theirs.

    In the case of girls, intervention is prior to the start of the usually later male puberty, & so expensive agonists is never be needed. An additional benefit is that the years of depression, poor memory, & lack of confidence often suffered by trans girls due to low oestrogen when their physician is slowly ramping up her dose to mimic a “natural” puberty at a much later age than normal, when the brain seems to need higher levels, are avoided.

    It is very likely “puberty with peers” will be the gold standard in 20 years, if not long before, and so a 20 year study should certainly include some who have benefit of that.

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