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Lived experience shaping trans inclusion across District

Education for staff is part of LGTBIQ+ health and wellbeing strategy.

A man standing at the front of a room speaks to a crowd with his arms open, delivering an education session.
SydneyConnect Image: Av Devries (left) delivers a trans and gender diverse awareness and inclusion education session to RPA Hospital Emergency Department staff.

Av Devries is driving the change he wants to see.  

A trans man and Lived Experience Educator with Sydney Education, Sydney Local Health District's education service, Av, is working with healthcare professionals to increase their awareness and understanding of trans and gender diversity to create more inclusive and safe healthcare environments.  

"It's about giving people the opportunity to learn about trans and gender diverse people, and what we find in health is that people really want to learn and are working in health to help other people," he said. 

Emergency departments can be intimidating spaces for trans people who commonly face challenges due to incomplete or mismatched paperwork, name changes, and not being out about their identity, Av explained, or because they've experienced or seen discrimination, leading them to feel uncomfortable engaging with healthcare services.   

"Unfortunately, trans and gender diverse people are disproportionately negatively affected in emergency departments and the health sector in general," he said.   

"Generally, people aren't going out of their way to be malicious, but adding a high-stress environment and not knowing everything can make it a bit difficult."  

Av pointed to the language used to identify trans and gender-diverse people as the most significant challenge to overcome to make spaces more inclusive for patients.  

"Language changes so quickly, but we find a lot of people's language is outdated by 20 years, and I think a lot of the change is just seeing trans people in person and recognising that we're real," he said.  

"We want to create a space where clinicians feel comfortable asking us questions, to improve their knowledge. 

“So, when they have a trans patient in their care, they will have the confidence to approach the patient respectfully, knowing they have a base understanding." 

In November, he co-led a workshop for Royal Prince Alfred Hospital Emergency Department staff alongside EJ Heine, the District’s Program Manager for LGTBIQ+ and Men's Health, building on the department's efforts to be more inclusive and in light of positive feedback from the community.   

The District provides healthcare services to a uniquely diverse community, and several of the suburbs within its boundaries represent the highest proportions of same-sex couples in Australia.  

In recognising the healthcare needs of the community accessing its services, EJ said RPA's Emergency Department staff are actively seeking opportunities to increase inclusion into patient centred care.  

"Being an emergency department, it's acute care, and they're doing an important job but still finding the time to respect the patient for who they are," EJ, who uses they/them pronouns, said. 

"They're actively seeking ways to improve what they're doing because they understand the population using their services.   

"What you find a lot with our District's services is it's about equity and being person centred and not putting everyone in a one-size-fits-all approach to care."  

EJ said the workshop was part of work within the District to support the health and wellbeing of LGTBIQ+ communities, by providing clinicians with education and training, informed by lived experience.  

"We are trying to build their confidence because, as healthcare professionals, they go into communities to provide support to help people stay healthy and well, and sometimes there are extra skills that need to be developed to have that confidence and support them to do what they do best," they said.  

"It's our responsibility as a service and a system to provide those opportunities to build that confidence, not assuming that healthcare professionals will just absorb it as part of their everyday life.  

"And being able to tailor it, so it meets that environmental need and is specific to emergency staff and recognises the challenges they face in their role is really important."  

For Av, drawing on his experience in helping others has been profoundly fulfilling. 

"I'm just a person and happen to be transgender, and it doesn't define me, but it is an important part of who I am," he said.  

"Being able to use my voice in a more impactful way and learning how to do it in a way that will impact more people has been amazing."