A young trans person

A Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI)-led project that aims to improve trans and gender diverse healthcare for children and adolescents has been awarded new federal funding.

Associate Professor Ken Pang has received $5 million from the Models of Care for Sexuality & Gender Diverse People & People with Innate Variations of Sex Characteristics Grant Opportunity from the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF).

Associate Professor Pang and his team will bring together over 60 researchers, clinicians and community members to create a national data registry, improve the delivery of hormonal treatments (puberty blockers, estrogen and testosterone), explore non-medical treatments and compare different gender-affirming health care models for trans young people.

Trans health researcher Associate Professor Kenneth Pang

Image: Associate Professor Ken Pang

This will leverage support from the Australian Research Consortium for Transgender Youth and Children (ARCTYC), which was launched in 2022 to help address key questions on the long-term benefits, risks and overall outcomes following gender-affirming healthcare.

A key function of ARCTYC is the involvement of the trans community in the design and delivery of research. As part of this project, ARCTYC investigators will include young people, parents, researchers and clinicians who themselves have lived experience of gender diversity.

Associate Professor Pang said a theme at the core of the study was intersectional disadvantage.

“A variety of voices will be included in this research, including young trans people who are neurodivergent, from rural and regional backgrounds, who identify as First Nations, or face other types of marginalisation,” he said.

“This is a comprehensive trans youth health project that will involve major paediatric healthcare providers, trans health research leaders, trans young people, their parents and trans community groups across Australia.”

Dylan, a member of ARCTYC’s Youth Advisory Committee, said access to gender-affirming health care transformed their life.

“I went from feeling anxious and disconnected leaving my house to studying, working and thriving in my community,” they said.

“I feel so privileged to have this opportunity to support evidence-based research, telling the stories of young trans and gender diverse people across Australia."

Lisa, a parent of a trans young person, said research projects like Associate Professor Pang’s were overdue.

“The collection of data and presentation of facts [in this study] will not only improve the medical care, health and well-being outcomes for the trans community, it will also help to decrease the stigma and the constant barrage of misinformation used against trans folks and their families,” she said. Facts and evidence are what we need, not fear and ignorance.”

Associate Professor Pang said the project would leverage key data from the Trans20 study, a Melbourne Children's Research Campus initiative that includes MCRI, The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH), and the University of Melbourne.

“A critical part of this work will be pooling national data on the health and well-being of 2,500 transgender young people who have attended paediatric gender services since 2017, with Victoria and Trans20 to provide the largest dataset,” he said.

Associate Professor Pang said the study would also provide pivotal evidence for best practice healthcare guidelines, policies and practices in clinical, community and government sectors.

“By understanding the best way to deliver gender-affirming interventions and by establishing the pros and cons of different gender-affirming health care models, we will develop a stronger evidence base and ultimately improve the mental and physical health of trans young people around the world,” he said.

Numerous institutions will be involved in contributing their own data and resources, including from elsewhere in Victoria (Monash Health, Orygen, Monash University and La Trobe University), Western Australia (University of Western Australia, Perth Children’s Hospital, Child and Adolescent Health Service, Telethon Kids Institute and Murdoch University), New South Wales (University of Sydney, University of New South Wales, Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network, John Hunter Children’s Hospital, John Hunter Hospital and Western Sydney University), Queensland (Children’s Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service and James Cook University), South Australia (Flinders University, Women’s and Children’s Hospital and The University of Adelaide), Tasmania (University of Tasmania) and Northern Territory (Royal Darwin Hospital).

child in hospital

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