Ireland's national gender services has launched its first website for anyone looking for support in relation to medical and surgical interventions to help affirm their gender.
It is hoped the website will become the first port of call for those seeking more information on gender care in Ireland.
Dr Karl Neff, endocrinologist and clinical lead at the national gender service at St Columcille's Hospital in Loughlinstown, told RTÉ's Today with Claire Byrne that the website is launching six years on from the introduction of the Gender Recognition Act 2015.
He said that the delay is due to resources but there has been gender services at St Columcille's Hospital since 2000.
However, it has only been formally commissioned as a gender service from 2018, he said, adding that he has been in his post since 2019.
Dr Neff said that over that time, there has been a very rapid increase in referral rates going from about 200-300 maximum in the first 10 years of the service to now over 300 per year.
He said that there has been an exponential rise in referrals that really started around 2015 or 2016, but it is continuing, although it is plateauing.
Dr Neff said that the website has been designed by the clinical and administrative members of the national gender service team in parallel with their very busy clinical schedule.
So it has taken longer than they would have liked, he said.
Despite the positive news that the website is up and running, it is tempered with the message that there are long waiting times for people to be seen, with it being about 14 months from referral to first appointment.
Dr Neff warned that the problem is going to get worse unless the department gets additional resource. So unless there are additional resources, the waiting list is likely to get longer, he said.
He said that the website has information for people that can help them feel better, help them to affirm their gender, and help them to access support while they are waiting to be seen.
The team, administratively and clinically, wants to provide the best quality service it can but in a very difficult environment where it is facing a much greater workload than it has capacity for, as well as trying to develop the service, Dr Neff said.
About half the referrals the department gets per month is now with people aged 17 to 18. You cannot be referred to the service until you are 17 years old.
The website also has a section for healthcare professionals, which it is hoped will help inform them and guide them onto what they can do while the person is waiting to be seen.
Dr Neff said that the growth in referrals is not unique to Ireland, it's a trajectory that has been seen all over the world.
He said he thinks it is due to a combination of factors, but nobody really knows for sure.
"People who are questioning their gender will see this topic being discussed, or on the radio or on TV, they'll see transgender characters in the media and say, oh, being trans is something that's possible.
"You'd be surprised how many people that we see in our service, who had questions about their gender for a long time and never realised that that was a thing that could be", he said.
"Also people now know there is a service. So even though the service was there for 20 years, a lot of the time, it was, if you knew somebody who knew there was a service, you knew it was there, but otherwise you didn't think it was possible to even start thinking about medical transitioning".