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Closing the gap in transgender healthcare

The Gay & Lesbian Network held a transgender sensitization training with various members from the community. Amongst the participants were healthcare workers, mental health care workers, parents, partners and friends of transgender persons, as well as a few transgender people.

The presenters, Chris/tine McLachlan (Clinical Psychologist) and Elma de Vries (family physician and senior lecturer at University of Cape Town), focused on raising awareness and the sensitisation to the needs of transgender and gender diverse persons accessing health care.

Transgender persons experience multiple barriers to accessing health and healthcare services, including discrimination based on gender identity, gender expression, bodily characteristics and sexual orientation. A general lack of awareness, knowledge and sensitivity in healthcare communities leads to inadequate access to, under-utilisation of, and disparities with the healthcare system for the transgender population.

Barriers to care are encountered by transgender and gender diverse persons when seeking preventive medicine or routine and emergency care, and transgender-related services. These realities continue to be reported worldwide, and South Africa is no different. There also continues to exist a disparity between the available and standard of gender affirming healthcare within South Africa itself.

Anthony Waldhausen, director of Gay & Lesbian Network, says that “it is very important that we have these kinds of trainings in order to close the gap that exists between quality healthcare service provisioning and the ability of transgender and gender diverse persons to effectively and adequately access such services.” The participants fully engaged in the workshop, with many questions and discussions taking place. They reported that they enjoyed the training and found it very useful.