Making healthcare safe for gender-diverse patients

2 minute read

Dr Clara Tuck Meng Soo provides gender-affirming care in one of the most trusted settings in the country.

Dr Clara Tuck Meng Soo, a Canberra GP and transgender woman, is principal of the practice she joined in 1996 when it was owned by the legendary Dr Peter Rowland.

Dr Rowland was one of the first out gay doctors in the country. He founded the practice in the early 1980s when the HIV/AIDS epidemic was first emerging in Australia. The practice became a safe haven for the LGBTQI+ community of Canberra.

On 25 June 1996 Dr Rowland was shot and killed at his home when he disturbed two men who were trying to rob him. Although the judge at the time found insufficient evidence to call the murder a gay hate crime, many in the community felt that was exactly what it was.

Today Dr Soo and her colleagues are well known for running a practice that is a safe and trusted healthcare space for trans and other gender-diverse people.

“I would estimate that in an average week, probably about 30% to 40% of the patients I see are LGBTQI+,” says Dr Soo.

“And a vast proportion of that would be people who are transgender.

“In the early days, when I first joined the practice, we had quite a lot of lesbian and gay patients. Over the years that proportion has diminished, because I think that being sexuality-diverse is actually seen as being more mainstream now. So, a lot of patients who are gay or lesbian feel quite comfortable going to their local GP, expecting that GP will not be homophobic.”

Perhaps because of the environment she works in, Dr Soo says she has not experienced much transphobia. She transitioned about five years ago. But things could have been different.

“It may have been different if I had transitioned 20 years ago, when the social environment was much less accepting,” she says.

“If I transitioned at that time, it may have been acceptable for some of my professional colleagues who are less comfortable with gender diversity, to actually voice that to me. That’s not acceptable now.”

Dr Soo recently spoke at the Human Rights Conference, which was part of Sydney World Pride.

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