GENDER
What is gender dysphoria?

People who experience gender dysphoria have a long-standing dissatisfaction with their assigned gender. 

How do people with gender dysphoria express their gender?

There are many ways people can express their gender variance. For many, interacting with the people around them in their preferred gender is important. Legal documentation of gender is important for many people, and this forms another way that people can have their preferred gender recognized. 

Physical change is important for many people with gender dysphoria. There is a wide range of modifications that people can make to change their appearance. Clothing, hair, makeup, jewellery can be powerful expressions of gender. For some, long term physical changes are important, and medical intervention with hormones or surgery are indicated. 

What is involved in hormone therapy?

Hormones are chemicals secreted into the blood stream by glands. Hormones circulate through the body and change the way body parts look and function. Most of the body differences between males and females are due to hormones. 

Hormone therapy aims to reduce distress by changing peoples’ bodies to better reflect their gender identity. Hormone treatment is best seen as a permanent, irreversible bodily change. 

Who is suitable for hormone therapy?

Not everyone wants or needs hormone therapy. Hormone therapy is only recommended after a careful assessment, and discussion about where hormones might be of benefits. Assessment involves a mental health professional with experience in gender variance. In addition, a physical examination, blood tests and medical history are performed to assess the risk of side effects from hormones. 

What are the risks of hormone therapy?

Hormone therapies all carry the risk of serious side effects, and should be used cautiously and with medical supervision. The risks of hormone therapy are dependent on which particular therapy is prescribed, and the person’s individual medical history. A detailed, individual discussion of potential risks and benefits of hormone therapy is done prior to commencing. 

Dr Stuart Aitken is a specialist sexual health physician who is interested in the the medical management of people with gender dysphoria. His particular interest is in hormone therapy. Stuart has over fifteen years experience in gender medicine, and he is a member of the Australian and New Zealand Professional Association for Transgender Health. He participates in the Transformative Practice Mental Health Professional Network, and is actively engaged in working with mental health colleagues to provide the best care.