The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is encouraging trans activists behind a wave of online petitions calling for improved Medicare coverage of sex reassignment surgery, to focus on lobbying the federal health minister.

Gold Coast trans activist Michelle Diamond, who’s behind one of the more popular petitions pushing for better coverage, had been calling on the AHRC to take up the cause in light of a perceived emphasis on legal rights rather than associated medical issues.

“Psychiatric care and medications often do very little for a person living with mismatched genitals,” Diamond said.

“Some of these people have to confront these issues and endure extreme discomfort every time they use a toilet, bathroom or get dressed.

“Sex reassignment surgery is much more than just being cosmetic surgery and has more of an impact on a transsexual person’s life. It is highly regarded as life-saving surgery by medical professionals around the world.”

The AHRC, which produced the Sex Files gender diversity report in March 2009, said it had tried to draw attention to the medical, as well as legal, issues affecting the trans community in its talks with the federal Government.

“While the focus of the Sex Files report was specifically the examination of legal identity, the need for gender reassignment surgery to be covered by Medicare was also raised with us in consultations of the sex and gender diversity project at the time, as were a range of other health concerns,” a policy unit representative said.

“In the Sex Files report, we explained how the Commission did not have an opportunity to investigate these matters further in the report. However, we raised them with the federal Minister for
Health and recommended that the Australian Health Ministers’ Conference consider them.

“We will continue to raise human rights issues for sex and gender diverse people with the federal Government at the right opportunity.”

The AHRC said it had received many petitions similar to Diamond’s and encouraged supporters of better Medicare funding for sex reassignment surgery to raise the issue directly with the current health minister and federal Government representatives, as they were responsible for deciding policy for Medicare reimbursements.

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