Teddy Cook (ACON Health and TRANSform collaborator) and Ariel Ginger (TRANSform researcher) presenting research findings at the Australian Professional Association of Trans Health Conference in Darwin, 2022.
What is TRANSform?
TRANSform: An Australian longitudinal gender health study is an ongoing research project that aims to produce priority-based and community-led research to improve the health and wellbeing of the trans and gender diverse community.
Anyone who has a gender that is different to what was presumed for them at birth, currently living in Australia, and aged 16+ can join TRANSform. Since its launched three years ago, over 2,000 trans and gender diverse (trans) people from all over Australia have taken part, making TRANSform the largest ever trans research project in Australia.
Not only is TRANSform the largest project in terms of participant numbers but it is also the largest ever trans-led project in Australia. Trans people lead every stage of the research, from design to implementation, data analysis and reporting.
We aim to make our research as inclusive and accessible as possible, and reflective of community priorities. To achieve this, we have a Community Research Advisory Group to provide us feedback, with representation from Indigenous trans people, trans people of colour, neurodivergent trans people, trans people with a disability, and trans people living in remote areas. In addition, we work collaboratively with LGBTIQA+ organisations such as the Transhub team, DISCHARGED peer support group, Pride in Sport, and Proud 2 Play, and all our research is reviewed and endorsed by ACON and Thorne Harbour Health.
An overview of the TRANSform project as a trans-led and community co-designed project.
What makes TRANSform different from the typical Survey?
Rather than a one-off survey, TRANSform allows us to follow the Australian trans community across multiple years.
Participants first complete the enrolment survey, where they provide their email address which is then used to keep in touch with them for two key purposes:
Invitations to participate in TRANSform sub-studies. Each year TRANSform involves 2-3 sub-studies on priority research topics, and participants may be invited to participate in these via email. All these sub-surveys are voluntary – if people do not want to participate, they just ignore the email.
TRANSform research updates. Each year participants are also sent 2-3 research update emails to keep them informed of the progress of the research including any publications and media coverage. This allows participants to see the outcomes of the time and energy they give to the project.
Participants can opt out of TRANSform at any time.
What has TRANSform achieved in its first three years?
We work to share TRANSform research widely, with the aim to have a real-world impact and improve the lives of trans and gender diverse people. This involves peer-reviewed publications, media engagement, and presentations at national and international training sessions, seminars and conferences to a broad range of audiences including healthcare professionals and government representatives.
TRANSform was launched during the first nation-wide COVID-19 lockdowns and a significant amount of our focus has been on capturing the experiences of our community during the pandemic. In a survey we conducted in May 2020, over 1000 trans and gender diverse people shared their experiences of the early months of the pandemic, including widespread job loss, financial strain, healthcare disruptions and mental health distress. These findings were published in the International Journal of Transgender Health, and the Trans in the Pandemic Report. Media coverage has included radio and television interviews, and numerous print articles (e.g., ABC News and SBS).
We routinely present this research – particularly findings on mental health and barriers to healthcare – to key stakeholders, with the aim to improve health policy and the services that support the trans and gender diverse community. This has involved presentations to the federal government, including the House of Representatives Select Committee on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, and the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), with the latter resulting in the Investment of $26 million by the Federal Government in research to improve healthcare for LGBTIQA+ people, including a stream specific to trans healthcare.
TRANSform has also included studies on a range of other trans health topics.
For example, nearly 500 TRANSform participants using testosterone gender-affirming hormone therapy took part in a survey exploring the common but poorly understood issue of pelvic pain. This is the largest study on this topic internationally and was published in LGBT Health, and an accompanying blog post has been shared widely by LGBTIQA+ organisations and support groups.
Throughout 2022 and into this year, we conducted an interview-based study with people who have lived-experience of suicidality. Preliminary findings from this study will be presented to a large audience of mental health professionals at the upcoming National Suicide Prevention Conference 2023 – the very first time this conference has featured significant trans content.
Late last year, over 600 TRANSform participants took part in a survey which explored experiences of gender euphoria, with the aim to develop the world’s first Gender Euphoria Scale. This will be an important tool in clinical practice, providing an opportunity to explore and measure gender euphoria.
Most recently, we ran a survey exploring barriers and facilitators to trans participation in exercise and fitness. We have already presented preliminary findings to the International Olympic Committee and an audience of dozens of sport policy makers from across the globe, with the aim to highlight the barriers trans people face to sport participation at a community-level and improve trans-inclusion.
Trans Health Research team members (left to right): Dr Brendan Nolan, Dr Sav Zwickl, Ariel Ginger, Dr Alex Wong, Tomi Ruggles, Dr Julian Grace, and A/Prof Ada Cheung.
Thank you to the 2,000 trans and gender diverse people involved in TRANSform!
We want to finish up these first three years by thanking everyone who has been a part of TRANSform.
We are so grateful for the time people have given to this project and the way they have shared some of their personal experiences with us – from the moments of joy and euphoria to moments of pain and struggle.
We look forward to working with TRANSform participants and the broader trans and gender diverse community for many more years to come!
The TRANSform Research Team.
If you are trans or gender diverse and interested in joining TRANSform, you can find out more information and complete the enrolment survey here. If you are a researcher or community organisation interested in collaborating with us, you can find more information here. Any questions about TRANSform can be directed to email@example.com.