Gender agenda

A VISIT to the hospital can be a daunting for anyone, but for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community it is an experience many try to avoid entirely.

Latrobe Regional Hospital is hoping to alleviate the negative experiences common for LGBTI people through a better understanding of the community, its needs and its challenges.

LRH mental health service director Cayte Hoppner said when treating an LGBTI person for mental health conditions it was essential to understand the impact gender and sexuality may have on their wellbeing.

“Unfortunately we have people who access our service who have serious mental health issues based on discrimination because of their sexuality and their gender,” Ms Hoppner said.

“They’re more highly represented in our mental health contact rates, more highly represented in our suicide rates and that’s tragic; that needs to stop.”

At its monthly board meeting on Tuesday the hospital heard from Victoria’s Commissioner for Gender and Sexuality, Ro Allen about the struggles the LGBTI community faced when accessing the health system.

Ro, a member of the LGBTI community, said there was a belief that everyone was treated equally, “but we know as service providers and we know as the Victorian Government, that not everyone starts at an equal place”.

Ro said healthcare services needed to be mindful of the different categories within the LGBTI community, along with the difference between sexuality and gender.

Ro also advised workers and the general community to drop pronouns as it was making assumptions about one’s gender.

“There’s a lot of pressure on adults and health professionals to label a child. But it would be much better if we waited until that child was three or four for them to tell you who they are,” Ro said.

To demonstrate the struggles faced by LGBTI people, Ro recounted a personal experience of being pregnant in a regional hospital.

In the class, parents were separated with mothers on one side of the room and fathers to the other.

Ro said this left partner Kay in hysterics.

“My partner had delivered two children who are grown up… this is only eight years ago,” Ro said.

“It really shouldn’t be for the LGBTI family to educate the hospital but in that case it was.”

Ms Hoppner said Ro’s advice was welcomed as LRH was looking to become a more inclusive and understanding health service.

“At the moment as a broader organisation we’re about to embark on the equality guide self-assessment,” Ms Hoppner said.

“We’ll be using the equality guide to determine where we do well and what our areas of improvement are.

“Then it’s about putting together an action plan so we can actually become a more inclusive organisation; that’s our aim.”