Pediatrician Michelle Telfer, who heads the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne gender clinic, has slammed News Corp’s The Australian newspaper for publishing fearmongering “disinformation” on transgender healthcare.
In 2019, the Australian newspaper was slammed for anti-transgender bias after launching a dedicated “Gender” section on its website featuring overwhelming negatively coverage.
Associate Professor Telfer featured frequently in the coverage. Telfer has now taken the newspaper to task in a submission to the Senate’s media diversity inquiry, first reported by the Guardian.
The pediatrician said between August 2019 and July 2020, the Australian published 45 articles and opinion pieces, referencing her 80 times. The articles referenced her clinic’s work 282 times.
Assoc Prof Telfer said the articles contained “false, inaccurate, unfair and unbalanced information” that questioned her “credibility, integrity and honesty”.
“I was portrayed as someone who was harming children,” she wrote.
“[The articles] created a narrative that did not reflect reality. In my opinion, it was not news, it was disinformation.
“Its effect was to create fear and anxiety, to exacerbate the stigma, discrimination and prejudice that exists against trans children and young people in our society.”
Michelle Telfer says newspaper sought to ‘destroy her professional reputation’
Michelle Telfer said the reporting “attempted to destroy my professional reputation” and undermine patients and families’ trust in treating doctors.
She listed numerous instances of inaccurate or misleading information in the coverage.
Many people quoted and presented as “experts” by The Australian had no experience in transgender healthcare. No transgender children were interviewed.
“The Australian continues to publish articles without apparent consideration to the facts,” she said.
“[Or consideration] to the harm it causes to the individuals and the families who suffer as a consequence.”
The newspaper also sought to influence political decision making on transgender issues, Telfer said.
She was “incredibly grateful” the Victorian government and federal health minister Greg Hunt had instead “sought advice on the facts.”
Telfer praised the politicians for making decisions based on peer-reviewed evidence amid The Australian’s coverage.
“It is for this reason that I have faith our health and political systems can overcome powerful media influences,” she said.
“[These influences] have the potential to cause great harm to Australian society.”
The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne gender clinic is Australia’s largest for trans and gender-diverse children. Assoc Prof Telfer has served as director since 2012.
Michelle Telfer is also lead author of the Australian Standards of Care and treatment guidelines for trans and gender diverse children and adolescents.
The Senate inquiry is examining “the state of media diversity, independence and reliability in Australia” and its impact on democracy.
Senators established it after former PM Kevin Rudd’s popular petition for a royal commission into Rupert Murdoch’s media business.
Australian newspaper’s coverage ‘ignores scientific evidence’
In August 2019, Australia’s peak body of transgender health professionals also called out The Australian newspaper’s reporting.
The Australian Professional Association for Trans Health (AusPATH) accused it of ignoring scientific evidence in its trans coverage.
“The reporting ignores available scientific evidence strongly endorsing supporting transgender children through social and medical transition to improve their mental health outcomes,” AusPATH said.
“Overwhelmingly, the scientific evidence … demonstrated that medical intervention not only improves mental health outcomes, but saves lives by reducing suicide.
“It is well-recognised these poor mental health outcomes are not inherent to being transgender.
“They are due to TGD individuals experiencing high levels of stigma, discrimination, social exclusion, family rejection, bullying, harassment and assaults.
“Ignoring the facts in the reporting on this issue is irresponsible.
“Most importantly, it’s not in the best interest of these young people due to the significant harm it causes.”
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