© New Zealand Broadcasting School 2019

Health board 'ignorant' on transgender issues

James Fleury
Tia McDougall

Canterbury District Health Board receives education about gender diverse people and the health issues they are facing.

Christchurch District Health Board member Tracey Chambers said there was ignorance about transgender health issues among her fellow board members.

"There's been ignorance among us," Chambers said at the health board's monthly public meeting on May 16.

The comment was prompted by a presentation from Jennifer Shields on transgender health to the board's community, public health and disability advisory committee.

Shields, who is a member of the co-design group for gender affirming care at Pegasus Health, said the transgender community was at risk across a range of health issues such as self harm, substance abuse and homelessness, typically because of the treatment they experienced from society.

Shields said the committee received the information positively. Its members appeared surprised that there were 5000 transgender people in Canterbury.

She estimated 20,000 people in the region identified as gender diverse. 

Qtopia lead facilitator Alice Anderson said many in the LGBTQIA+ community felt there were barriers trying to access health care. Qtopia is an organisation that provides support young people in the "rainbow community" Christchurch.

She said the best way for the district health board to tackle transgender health was to ask the community how best to serve it and act on that advice. 

"We are all in the same waka, so we have to pull together."

Christchurch transgender woman Rosie Muir said while her journey was probably better than the average, it was important for health officials to have a broad understanding of trans health issues. 

"Obviously any additional education they undergo is great, but ultimately the people who need to be well-educated on issues that transgender people face are the front-line doctors, nurses and other health professionals who deal with transgender people on a daily basis."

Muir believed the majority of health professionals in Christchurch had an understanding of transgender health issues.