Australian Story: May 24
ABC profiles Dr Michelle Telfer, a world leader in treatment for children and teenagers with gender dysphoria.
Monday’s Australian Story goes behind the scenes at the Royal Children’s Hospital’s Gender clinic and profiles paediatrician Dr Michelle Telfer, a world leader in treatment for children and teenagers with gender dysphoria.
This episode is introduced by actor and transgender rights advocate Georgie Stone (Neighbours).
Paediatrician Dr Michelle Telfer has one of the most controversial jobs in medicine in Australia.
She’s used to waking up with chest pains and dread about what might be in the morning’s media.
“At one point I thought Michelle might stop her work and I thought she might break and just decide that she’d had enough,” says a close colleague.
“There’s always been critics, and you don’t go into this area of medicine without being warned about becoming a target and I’ve certainly made myself a very big target,” says Dr Telfer.
Associate Professor Dr Michelle Telfer is a world leader in providing lifesaving treatment for children and teenagers with gender dysphoria, guiding them through their first steps towards transitioning.
But the spotlight has been put on the work of all clinicians after a recent UK court case where a vulnerable young person made a decision to transition that she now regrets.
The former Olympic gymnast turned doctor and mother-of-two has treated hundreds of transgender children in Melbourne’s RCH Gender Clinic over the last nine years and the waiting list is growing. She credits her early athletic success with building the stamina and drive needed to endure the unexpected media spotlight she’s found herself in.
“When the short-term risk of not providing care is severe depression and anxiety, self-harm and young people attempting suicide, we know that we can’t do nothing…” she says. “Doing nothing is actually exposing young people to the risk of harm.”
This episode of Australian Story goes behind the scenes at the Royal Children’s Hospital’s Gender clinic to meet three of Dr Telfer’s patients, Isabelle, Elliot and Oliver. They believe their treatment was lifesaving.
“It’s just a very thorough process.” Isabelle says. “If you aren’t actually trans, the hospital will figure it out. If the child maybe is confusing their feelings or something else, they’ll figure it out. If at any moment I thought maybe I’m not trans, I would have stopped.”
Despite her critics, Dr Telfer says she is optimistic about the future.
“I know that what we are doing is the right thing,” she says. “Society has tried to ignore trans people for hundreds and hundreds of years, but now that we’re affirming them, now that we’re giving them a voice, look what that can do.”
Producer: Janine Cohen
Monday 24 May at 8:00pm on ABC.