November 16, 2022

This is Trans Awareness Week

This week is Trans Awareness Week – an opportunity for transgender people and their allies to educate the community about who transgender people are, share stories and experiences, and advance advocacy around the issues of prejudice, discrimination and violence that may affect the transgender community.

Observed from 13 November to 19 November, the week also leads up to Transgender Day of Remembrance on 20 November, which memorialises victims of transphobic violence.

Transgender is an umbrella term used to describe people whose gender identity is different to the sex that was assigned to them at birth. Transgender people may identify as straight, gay, bisexual or another sexual orientation.

Other transgender terms used to describe people include Non-Binary – someone who doesn’t identify as a man or woman, Gender Fluid – someone who alters between female and male, Gender Queer – a person who does not identify to conventional gender distinctions, but identifies with neither, both, or a combination of male and female genders, and Agender – not having, or a lack of gender identity.

Sistagirl and Brothaboy are terms used by Aboriginal communities to describe transgender people and their relationships. Cisgender describes a person whose gender identity is aligned with their sex assigned at birth. If at any time you’re unsure of a person’s gender identity, ask for their gender pronouns e.g. she, her, him, his, they, them etc. which are used instead of a noun to refer to a person. Introducing yourself with your pronouns also provides a safe space for transgender people.

Lee Pattison is a transman, a consumer representative on Northern Health’s Rainbow Working Group, and a former Northern Health employee. Dr Siân Cole is a registered Clinical and Health Psychologist working on our acute medical wards. Assigned female at birth, Lee began his medical transition in 2010. He and Siân have been together for more than 14 years.

“I came out to my own family as a lesbian when I was 17. That wasn’t easy for them but coming out as trans in my thirties was even more difficult. The support provided by Siân and her family was, and continues to be, incredibly important to my surviving and thriving,” said Lee.

When one partner transitions in a relationship, it can significantly impact the other person’s sense of identity.

“We met as lesbians and had always been seen as a queer couple. When Lee started being perceived as male, it was strange to no longer be recognised,” said Siân.

A recent Australian study found that 41 per cent of transgender people who needed emergency care did not attend the emergency department because they were transgender. This is one of the factors contributing to poorer health outcomes for trans and gender diverse people.

Private Lives 3 – an Australian survey of the health and wellbeing of LGBTIQ people – reported in 2020 that more than half of survey participants reported high or very high levels of psychological distress. This is four times higher than that of the general population.

Electra Ulrich, Co-Chair of the Northern Health Rainbow Working Group, said transgender people experienced poorer health outcomes due to stigma and discrimination.

“Working to reduce discrimination, educating ourselves and being an ally, can all help create the change that will be needed to reduce this disparity in health outcomes for trans folk,” she said.

“There are many ways in which we can educate ourselves. To provide safer care for the trans community at Northern Health, we can use the patient’s chosen name – even if it is different to their name on their Medicare card, don’t assume someone’s pronouns – we can introduce ourselves with our pronouns to sign post to the person that we understand this. I may say, ‘my name is Electra and my pronouns are she/her.'”

“It is also important to only ask clinically relevant questions. For example, unless it is clinically relevant, don’t ask a trans person if they’ve had surgery or take hormones. And most importantly, if you make a mistake, acknowledge this, apologise, and move on. This can also let the person know that you didn’t do this intentionally, and that is important to providing safe care.”

Lee, who is currently working on an EMR Diversity and Inclusion Project, says, “We can only be more inclusive and responsive to the needs of Rainbow patients with exposure, education and tools.”

What can you do?

Watch Trans 101 published by Melbourne’s own Minus18.

Watch TransHub Talks: Healthcare Experiences published by NSW ACON Health.

Read the studies referenced in this article

Continue exploring for reliable information about how to use inclusive language and be an ally to people who identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ Rainbow.

If you would like to be a part of Northern Health’s Rainbow Working Group, you can email

Featured image: Lee and Siân.