During an Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) talkfest at Queensland Parliament House last week, a so-called ‘expert panel’ spent most of their time claiming a ‘gay conversion therapy’ ban would create trans kids. Dr. Fiona Bisshop, with on the job experience of hundreds of trans patients, looks at their claims.
It’s hard to know where to begin. The claims of the self-proclaimed ‘gender-critical feminists’ on the ACL panel are ridiculous and nonsensical. (What is a ‘gender-critical feminist’? My loose translation is transphobic cis women).
They do indeed seem to have a bee in their bonnet about treatment for trans children. But, whatever the reason for their angst, a lot of their argument is complete rubbish.
No gender clinics anywhere force children down a path of transition based on clothing colour and toy preference. To suggest so is an insult to the many dedicated professionals involved in these multidisciplinary clinics. Doctors refer the majority of children who attend these clinics due to real distress over their gender and bodies. Whether they prefer tractors over barbies, or tiaras instead of firemen helmets, plays no part.
Likewise, sexual attraction and whether a child may actually be gay is not a deciding factor in the process.
Thorough and holistic assessment of trans kids
The assessment that takes place for these children is thorough and holistic. It involves the child’s family and a range of professionals including psychologists, psychiatrists, paediatricians, social workers, endocrinologists and sexual health physicians.
The decision to commence puberty blockers is not a whimsical one. Doctors make the decision based on significant distress during the early stages of puberty.
These medications have been used for many years to treat other conditions in children. Their effects are well understood by the specialists who prescribe them. They do not cause permanent effects, but rather put a pause on development of secondary sex characteristics. Preventing permanent changes in voice, chest and hair growth has a massive impact on physical transition, and goes a long way to help relieve distress.
There are clear links between gender dysphoria and poor mental health outcomes including suicide. Recent data shows that access to puberty blockers helps reduce suicidal feelings and improves mental health in trans and gender diverse youth.
After treating many transgender adults — forced as children to suppress or deny their feelings about their gender, or too frightened to acknowledge them — I can attest to the impossibility of ‘curing’ someone of being trans. Attempts to do so often to lead to distress, denial, and depression. Patients lose years of their lives to despair that could be spent happily and productively.
Ultimately, people who have no understanding of this should keep their opinions to themselves and not seek to force them upon others!