Transgender clinic for youngsters

The first clinic for gender diverse children is to be established in Thailand this year, said Dr Jiraporn Arunakul, an adolescent medicine specialist at Ramathibodi Hospital.

The clinic is being set up for young people who often don't have access to proper or adequate medical care that caters to their "gender dysphoria" or sexuality.

"Many gender diverse kids search for information on the internet or just listen to their friends on how to find and take cross-sex hormones, causing a negative impact on their health," Dr Jiraporn said.

"So, the first clinic for gender diverse children will soon be set up at Ramathibodi Hospital to provide medical care and suggestions for them."

She was speaking at a seminar to commemorate the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia which falls every year on May 17.

It is aimed at drawing public attention to violence and discrimination experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people internationally.

The seminar on Friday was co-organised by the Thai Transgender Alliance (ThaiTGA), the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration and the Teeranat Kanjanauksorn Foundation at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre.

Dr Jiraporn said there is a standard treatment for gender diverse youngsters in many countries.

For example, doctors will sometimes give them medicine to delay their puberty pending treatment decisions.

Cross-hormone medicine and surgical procedures would be allowed when they reached 16 and 18 years old respectively.

"But there are not even any guidelines to take care of gender diverse children in our country," she said.

In addition, she recently conducted a study on 2,000 secondary school students in Bangkok and found that 11% of them were uncertain of their gender identity.

Fortunately, almost half of them were accepted by their families.

In terms of statistical significance, this group of students whose families accepted them experienced fewer depressive disorders and suicide attempts.

Dr Jiraporn said those accepted by their families also achieved a high degree of success in their studies, compared with those who were not accepted.

"You can see that family acceptance is one of the most important factors for gender diverse children, so the clinic will provide not only medical care and consultations to children, but also create understanding as well as acceptance among their families and guardians," she said.

However, she believed the clinic could face problems with public understanding and regulations such as over parental consent for minors.

Apichart Phongsawat, a lawyer on the Law Reform Commission of Thailand, said the commission will propose two laws to the new government as soon as it is formed to ensure the rights of transgender people.

The draft regulations cover issues of opportunity, gender equality and civil partnership.

Nicha Rongram, a member of ThaiTGA, said transgender people should be recognised as a third gender to be given fair access to medical care and public facilities from the government sector.

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