‘Australian Story’ spotlights paediatrician & gender expert Dr Michelle Telfer

An upcoming episode of Australian Story takes a closer look at the life and work of Associate Professor Dr Michelle Telfer.

A world leader in treating gender dysphoria in trans and gender diverse young people, Dr Telfer has been a pioneer in lifesaving treatments for young Australians.

Dr Telfer’s work has also drawn heavy criticism from conservative media and critics. She’s used to waking up with chest pains and dread about what might be in the morning’s news.

“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,” Dr Telfer adds.

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…” Dr Telfer 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,” Dr Telfer 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.”

Australian Story: A Balancing Act airs Monday 24th May at 8pm on ABC.

Do you need some support?

If you are struggling with anxiety or depression, support and counselling are available from:

QLife: 1800 184 527 / qlife.org.au (Webchat 3pm – midnight)
QLife are a counselling and referral service for LGBTQIA+ people.

DISCHARGED: 9364 6909 / waamh.org.au / [email protected]
Discharged is a trans-led support service with peer support groups for trans and gender diverse folks.

Lifeline: 13 11 14 / lifeline.org.au

Beyondblue: 1300 22 4636 / www.beyondblue.org.au

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