Brisbane’s Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital gender clinic is set to receive $1.117 million in extra funding as part of the government’s Sexual Health Strategy.

The clinic was formally established in recent months, headed by Dr Stephen Stathis. Dr Stathis previously ran his own unfunded informal clinic out of hours while working at the Royal Children’s Hospital, where he was receiving an increasing number of referrals to see young people with gender dysphoria.

“Once I developed a name that I was interested in this area, suddenly I started to get many, many referrals,” he said. “To the point where in November last year, I had a two-year waiting list for me to see young people.”

The waiting list has continued to grow as more patients are referred to Dr Stathis.

Dr Stathis said many of the young people he sees are experiencing distress or mental health issues. Not all his patients have gender dysphoria as such.

“Many of these young people were just gender variant,” he said. “They didn’t identify as the opposite gender, they just like to do things that the opposite gender likes to do.”

He said cultural norms make distinguishing gender variance from gender dysphoria complex. Girls can do “stereotypical boy things” and be considered tomboys, while “boys, you put on a pink tutu and you’re off to see the doctor”.

Dr Stathis said reducing waiting times is crucial to ensure young people who need medical transition have timely access. Young people desperate for treatment sometimes buy illegal hormones when medical care is unavailable to them.

The increased funding is intended to help alleviate clinic wait times, and will ensure permanent staff can be hired.

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