Monday, 25 May 2015

Wanted: Health Minister who reads their own research

Content note: discussions of transphobia and it's impacts, focussed on the recent political discussions about trans* healthcare.

There's so much to find troubling about National calling life-saving healthcare for trans* people "nutty" and Labour leadership failing to stand behind regional conferences voting to have funded gender reassignment surgery on the table.

For our health minister to be so poorly educated about trans* healthcare needs is horrifying.  It's increasingly obvious that transphobia, transmisogyny, gender policing and the institutionalised discrimination and stigma that people from marginalised genders experience kills.  It kills by making employment and housing less accessible.  It kills through people seeking solace in drugs and alcohol.  It kills through increasing vulnerability to being targeted for intimate partner and sexual violence.  It kills through creating a climate where violence towards trans people is invisible, enabled and lethal.  It kills through people being unable to contemplate going on living.

The Ministry of Health fund our best research into trans* needs so far, the Youth 2000 research where thousands of secondary school students are asked questions about their experiences.  Seems our Health Minister didn't bother to read the trans* section - 20% of our beautiful trans* secondary school students attempted suicide in the previous 12 months.  That compares with 4% of other kids.  40% of trans* young people had "significant depressive symptoms" and half had self-harmed in the previous 12 months.

But the Labour leadership rush from the possibility of championing trans* rights to life-saving healthcare is equally disgraceful.  Andrew Little's happy with his gender.  David Shearer didn't know what gender reassignment surgery was.  Stuart Nash says the issue isn't important to the people in New Zealand.  I'll save special disdain for every(gay)man Grant Robertson though - he doesn't feel strongly about life-saving surgery apparently.  Must be nice to be that kind of Rainbow champion.

(In the queer press Grant Robertson is "absolutely committed" to the best possible trans* healthcare services.  I guess he thinks queer people are stupid.)

As usual, public debate about a socially contested issue - where there is real ignorance, I suspect, amongst the majority of the general cis public - is an opportunity for social change.  If at an incredibly hurtful cost for trans* and gender diverse peeps, as well as pain for those of us who love them.  And Jan Logie has stepped up to the gender diverse plate, not for the first time, to show us what a real Rainbow champion looks like.

She's pulled together an LGBTI rights MP group to educate, provide leadership and push for changes in legislation.  Beyond Marriage Equality.

So, improving access to life-saving trans* healthcare, including hormones, counselling and surgery.  Stopping once and for all state sanctioned (and funded) genital mutilation of babies and children in the name of gender policing.  Creating increasing space for queer people of colour to create and determine spaces which are culturally appropriate for them.  Providing inclusive and positive information about sexuality, sex, gender, relationships and all kinds of bodies to every young person in Aotearoa.  Naming biphobia as a real thing, leaving bi people with the highest rates of mental health difficulties, sexual violence and intimate partner violence of all sexualities.  Dealing with the homelessness risks for queer young people.  For starters.

First though: Writing the job description for the next Health Minister - whether they come from National or Labour - and making sure "understanding the health needs of the most vulnerable" is bullet point number one.

1 comment:

Elson Cade said...
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