Content Warning: This blog includes mention of mental ill-health and suicidality.
The Australian Professional Association for Trans Health (AusPATH) is the national peak body for people working to improve the health, rights and well-being of trans and gender diverse (trans) people. This year, the biannual AusPATH Conference was held in Melbourne from 2-4 November.
The Trans Health Research Team presented 12 oral presentations and 3 posters over the 3-day conference, sharing both recently published and yet-to-be-published research to an audience of over 500 attendees.
Dr Lachlan Angus presenting his research on anti-androgens at AusPATH Conference 2023.
Clinical research presentations
Endocrinologist and researcher, Dr Lachlan Angus presented his latest clinical trial findings, including a randomised controlled trial (RCT) comparing spironolactone and cyproterone in trans people commencing oestradiol, and a cross-sectional study looking at bicalutamide as an antiandrogen.
After significant media and community attention following its publication several weeks ago, endocrinologist and researcher Dr Brendan Nolan presented his world-first RCT on the impact of fast access to testosterone therapy on mental health. Brendan also presented a study looking at the short-term effects of micronised progesterone, and a poster on low-dose transdermal testosterone in non-binary people.
Collaborating researcher, Rebecca Shepherd from Murdoch Children’s Research Institute presented a RCT looking at long-term changes in the plasma metabolome, which are useful disease biomarkers, in individuals using spironolactone and cyproterone acetate.
Dr Sav Zwickl and Dr Alex Wong with our poster presentation on COVID-19 illness and vaccination in the trans community.
There were also five presentations and two posters that came from our TRANSform study; Australia’s largest trans-led research project.
We have previously published findings from a survey exploring pelvic pain in trans people using testosterone. Dr Alex Wong presented additional data from this survey, exploring factors associated with persistent menstruation – ongoing periods/bleeding for longer than 6 months after commencing testosterone treatment.
In May 2020 we collected data from TRANSform participants about their experiences during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, which have since been published in the International Journal of Transgender Health and the Trans in the Pandemic Report. In a follow-up survey conducted in May 2022, we explored the ongoing impact of the pandemic on mental health and healthcare access, and this unpublished data was presented at the conference by Tomi Ruggles and Dr Sav Zwickl. As part of this follow-up survey, we also looked at rates of COVID-19 illness and vaccination in the trans community and this was presented as a poster.
With the aim to contradict the commonly held assumption that non-binary people rarely pursue medical gender affirmation, Tomi Ruggles and Dr Sav Zwickl also presented on rates of access and desire for gender-affirming hormone therapy and gender-affirming surgery in non-binary people involved in TRANSform. As part of a separate non-binary lived-experience panel, Sav also spoke about their experience as a non-binary person and utilized stories from research participants to talk about the barriers that non-binary people face in accessing gender-affirming healthcare.
Collaborations have become a key part of the TRANSform project.
At the AusPATH Conference, Charlotte Blacklock from Swinburne University and Murdoch Children’s Research Institute presented on the development of the world’s first Gender Euphoria Scale - a process that involved TRANSform participants. Yet to be published, this scale has exciting potential as a tool to aid clinicians working with trans people to explore gender euphoria, joy, and wellbeing.
Collaborating researcher Sasha Bailey presented data from another recent TRANSform survey which explored barriers and facilitators to trans peoples’ participation in sport/fitness and relationships between participation and mental health.
The TRANSform team also collaborated with DISCHARGED, an organisation that provides peer support to trans people experiencing suicidality, to conduct an interview-based study looking at trans peoples’ experiences of communicating suicidal thoughts and behaviours. Preliminary findings were presented as a poster.
Left-right: A/Prof Ada Cheung, Dr Alex Wong, Tomi Ruggles and Foster Skewis at AusPATH Conference 2023.
Building meaningful connections
In addition to presenting our research, the AusPATH Conference was an opportunity to meet with trans health professionals from across the country, reconnect with interstate colleagues and engage directly with trans community members. Following the recent escalation in anti-trans discrimination and violence, it felt more meaningful than ever to make these connections with others who are working to improve trans health and wellbeing. We all left the three-day conference physically exhausted but mentally and emotionally reinvigorated and ready to jump back into our research!