Today is Wear it Purple Day, an annual LGBTQI+ awareness day to celebrate diversity, especially for young people. For children who are gender diverse, research tells us that the best way to promote their wellbeing is through support from parents, family and the community.
We spoke to Donna Eade, one of our #ChampionsforChildren, who works in our Gender Service about why Wear it Purple Day is a simple yet powerful way to show support for LGBTIQ+ young people.
Tell me a little bit about yourself. What is your role at the RCH? How long have you worked here for?
My nursing career has centered around adolescent health, and it is an area I am especially passionate about. After working on the adolescent unit in a variety of roles I moved to focus on the homeless sector, as a Clinical Nurse Consultant (CNC) at the Young People’s Health Service.
Just over five years ago, I joined the RCH Gender Service (GS) to establish the CNC role in a challenging time of rapidly accelerating demand for care. In 2015, I was the fortunate recipient of the DEMNDS scholarship and used this opportunity to research and develop a Single Session Nurse Led Assessment Clinic (SSNac) to manage our waitlist and provide early care to families and young people.
The SSNac provides an affirming and empowering consultation that can help improve the health outcomes for new referrals to the Gender Service by providing more timely access and earlier support. The SSNac provides the entry point for children from eight to 17 years, so I am typically the first person that young people and their families meet at the Gender Service. It is a great honour to help these young people feel affirmation and develop a sense of agency.
Why is Wear it Purple Day important to you?
Wear it Purple day is a simple yet powerful way to show support for LGBTIQ young people and combat homophobia and transphobia. The day opens up conversations and opportunities for community and allies to step up and go that extra mile in making LGBTIQ kids and their families feel safe, visible and empowered. This is especially important to me because I know how powerful it is for LGBTIQ youth to know we are on their side.
The theme for this year is ‘start the conversation, keep it going’. What does this mean to you?
I believe to start the conversation we need to consider the challenges faced by minority groups such as LGBTIQ youth, particularly in healthcare. For example it is important not to assume anyone’s sexuality or gender. Simply offering a non-judgmental approach and by not assuming someone’s sexual or gender identity is likely to help young LGBTIQ patients and families engage. Start with check-ins. Introduce yourself and check in with your patient regarding the name and pronouns they prefer to use. By doing this you can help young people open up. If your patient or family then share their sexual or gender identity with you, respect that this is private information and check with them to see if this is information they want shared. Also check in with your patient and family to identify if they want support. If they do, the RCHGS webpage has some great resources for young trans and gender diverse people and their families.
What steps can people in the community take to become allies of the LGBTIQ+ community?
Show your support! The physical space is a key place to start including knowledgeable administrative staff, LGBTIQ posters and images on walls and to ideally have a variety of library books that detail different lived experiences. A rainbow flag is a universal symbol of support and LGBTIQ inclusive practice. Wearing this flag and/or the trans flag as a badge, or having a sticker or poster on the wall is one way of starting to visually show your support. Then I encourage you to explore further by researching resources, self-education and seeking guidance if needed.
What do you enjoy most about working in the Gender Service?
I am passionate about my CNC role because I have the opportunity to work directly with trans and gender diverse young people and provide a consult that aims to empower them. Given SSNac is the entry point to the service, it means that it provides the opportunity for clinical triage, immediate interventions as well as education and information that can assist young people in their journey. Recently an evaluation of the model was undertaken and published in Pediatrics. The findings revealed that the clinic provided those who took part in the study, with; improvements in confidence, a sense of self, and validation of their gender identity, all of which contributed to an increased sense of agency overall. Sometimes I see that sense of agency transpire during a consult, for me to empower a young person in their journey is very rewarding.
What has been your proudest moment of working at the RCH in the Gender Service?
I am proud of the Gender Service, the team and of the work we do on a daily basis.
My proudest moment however is to march with my partner, her kids, and the team under the RCH and the Gender Service banner at the annual LGBTIQ Midsumma Festival Pride March. On this day the streets of St Kilda are filled with the LGBTIQ community. I feel overwhelming PRIDE, as we all march together and I see the young people and families we provide care to, cheering and applauding us for the work that we do and the care we are giving.