An in-depth look at the Brisbane Gender Clinic
The Brisbane Gender Clinic has seen many ups and downs over the years since its inception in 1995 and has done amazing work in the community. Dr Gale Bearman, who runs the clinic at QuAC, tells QP about the challenges it has faced and continues to face in the future.
The Brisbane Gender Clinic (BGC) consists of myself and volunteers on the phone. We also have input from community stakeholders, and assistance from psychologists. The founding association is the Australian Transgender Support Association Queensland (ATSAQ) and the BGC has been running since 1995. About 700 individual clients have been seen and currently we hold files for over 400, and have a waiting time of several months.
The BGC was started to reduce the suicide rate, provide safe hormone therapy, and ease the pathway to surgery for those who require this. The suicide rate has reduced dramatically since 1995.
The BGC was originally hosted by Queensland Health (1995-2012) at their own invitation, then we were shut down because Biala Sexual Health Clinic in Roma Street was to be shut down. When we were hosted by Qld Health we also had access to publicly funded psychiatrist and psychologist hours. We have lost that. Finally, after a lot of searching for a space, another host was found at QuAC and a generous donation from Shelley Argent at PFLAG in 2013 paid to equip a room for the clinic.
The clinic came into being quite deliberately. The community (the founders of ATSAQ) approached Qld Health in 1995 asking that something be done about the high suicide rate and unsafe hormone therapy practices in this state. Qld Health agreed to provide a space for a clinic, rent-free, if a doctor would provide services on Medicare and volunteers from ATSAQ would act as receptionists. This model was low-cost and effective, and was able to access other appropriate services at Biala until they were reduced or abolished. The rest of the history you know.
The aims of the clinic (we are not an organisation, we have no funding or structure) are to prevent self-harm, assist clients with a transition pathway if required, provide safe effective hormone therapy, provide advice to health professionals, prevent under grounding of this condition when clients self-medicate and have no help from any part of the health sector, encourage mainstreaming when clients feel comfortable to disclose to all their providers and have a team offering care, assist with documentation of gender markers, assist with a surgical pathway, provide training to other professionals and advocate.
This is a lot for one day a week, which is the only time the clinic is currently open. The clinic can only take on about 25 per cent of the clients who would like our services each year. It has been difficult to plan any succession. I am 60, and will eventually retire.
Other professionals will hopefully come on board. QuAC is trying to facilitate that. The public system should also provide some psychological and endocrinological services for these clients through a major hospital, but there is no pathway.
[Image] PFLAG’s Shelley Argent with Dr Gale Bearman.