July 1st 2017

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY 'Safe Schools' and every school's duty of care

CANBERRA OBSERVED Catholic education: not gone but Gonski'd

EDITORIAL Oh dear, Prime Minister, Brexit is harder now

ELECTRICITY Blueprint author did not ask about the weather

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Call for referendum after Taiwan court backs same-sex marriage

EUTHANASIA Death-dealing bills break out like hydras' heads

GENDER POLITICS New breed of young women takes on the United Nations

CULTURE AND HISTORY The past is a foreign country

LITERATURE The Road to Wigan Pier and the roads beyond

AUSTRALIAN HISTORY The 'Brisbane line' and other scandals

MUSIC Carla Bley: sophisticated lady

CINEMA Churchill: The regrets of a Lear

BOOK REVIEW Charting 15 years of changing emphases


GENDER POLITICS The Pied Pipers of gender dysphoria

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The Pied Pipers of gender dysphoria

by Dr John Whitehall

News Weekly, July 1, 2017

Childhood gender dysphoria is reaching epidemic proportions as hundreds of children present every year to special clinics in our children’s hospitals. But is the “disease” real, and is medical intervention helpful?

Proponents attest that 1 per cent of children suffer from contradiction between their physical and imagined sex. The so-called Safe Schools program even claims that one in every 25 children is afflicted. This contrasts with my straw poll of 28 paediatricians with a cumulative experience of 931 years The 28 specialists could recall in their experience only 12 children having suffered from confusion over gender: 10 also suffered from severe mental disturbance, and two had been the victims of prolonged sexual abuse.

I think the current epidemic is a behavioural phenomenon fanned by a sensationalist media and given direction by evangelical websites and counsellors.

But there is good news. The bible of psychiatry, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Edition 5 (DSM V), suggests that the majority of children suffering gender dysphoria are likely to orientate to natal sex through puberty. DSM V suggests a prevalence rate of 2.20–2.30 per cent in natal males and 1.20–1.30 per cent in females. However, it also reports a persistence of gender dysphoria in adult natal males of only 0.005–0.014 per cent and 0.002–0.003 per cent in females. Thus, even if the suggestion of 1 per cent prevalence in children is accepted, it suggests a cure rate without intervention of some 97 to 99 per cent.

This cure rate would surely emphasise the need for the medical profession to accede to the Hippocratic advice of first doing no harm. But, sadly, some therapists and many schools are fortifying gender delusion by social transitioning, and doctors are providing hormonal therapies with demonstrable side effects on cerebral structure and function, while assuring patients that these treatments are “safe and entirely reversible”.

Chemicals are given to block puberty that have been shown to alter the brains of sheep, and hormones are given to evoke the secondary sex characteristics of the opposite sex, while altering the grey matter of the brain. Some of these children (five in the last few years) have progressed to invasive surgery to remove breasts.

This medical pathway leads to monumental attempts to create ersatz external sexual organs of the opposite sex, based on castration. All these interventions are being inflicted when statistics assure compassionate, kindly waiting and watching would have done the trick.

As if to ensure no child suffering from gender dysphoria should be denied this experimental psychological and medical experience, governments are legislating to restrict therapy to affirmation of imagined gender; and now, in Canada, to intimidate parental objection through the accusation of child abuse and the threat of removal.

Bill 89, known as The supporting Children, Youth and Families Act of 2017, was ratified by 63 votes to 23 in the Ontario Parliament on June 1. Its preamble declares the importance of the role of children in their own affairs and the need to recognise “a child’s … race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, family diversity, disability, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression”.

In section 74 it declares a child “is in need of protection” if it “has suffered from emotional harm demonstrated by serious anxiety, depression, withdrawal, self-destructive or aggressive behaviour or delayed development” … and there are “reasonable grounds to believe that the emotional harm suffered by the child results from the actions, failure to act or pattern of neglect on the part of the child’s parent …”

The problem with all this is that in many children the symptoms of gender dysphoria are but part of a generalised mental disorder. For my article in Quadrant (May 2017), I reviewed 56 cases before the Family Court of Australia in which authority was being sought for treatment of dysphoric children. My review revealed special emphasis on co-existing autism, depression, anxiety, oppositional defiance, attention deficit and even mental retardation.

Proponents of the Ontario law argue that these morbidities are due to gender dysphoria and can be expected to improve with their therapy, even though many of the problems antedated the dysphoria or ran in parallel with it. It is easy to see, however, that activists could attribute any mental problems that children exhibited to parental concerns about dysphoria, and that authorities could be notified.

No one would object to departmental intrusion in cases of traditional neglect and abuse, but the Ontario law clearly indicates that parents who refuse to affirm a transgender identity for their child may be considered abusive. In an initial statement regarding parental refusal actively to support the gender transitioning of a child, Michael Coteau, Child and Youth Services Minister and the bill’s founder, declared: “I would consider that a form of abuse, when a child identifies one way and a caregiver is saying, no, you need to do this differently.”

Ontario’s Bill 89 is vague as to who can declare the child to be at emotional risk from parental concerns, but general rules regarding mandatory reporting would include school teachers and counsellors, and even the general public. It does not mention penalties but, ominously, does consider a “place of safety”.

Coteau’s reference to an errant caregiver should be considered in light of Ontario’s Affirming Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Act 2015, which declares that medical practitioners are forbidden to practise “conversion therapy” on minors. In other words, health practitioners are not permitted to do anything that might cause a child to be “converted” back to his or her natal sex. Serious penalties apply.

Are such laws possible in Australia? I would say “yes”. In some ways Victoria has exceeded the North Americans in its February 2017 Health complaints Act, which Health Minister Jill Hennessy declared would provide the means to deal with those who profit from the “abhorrent” practice of “gay conversion therapy”.

Though Hennessy specified gay and did not mention age, a broad intent to include other sexual minorities is implied in a reported statement of hers that “any attempts to make people uncomfortable with their own sexuality is completely unacceptable”. Also, though “conversion” therapy evokes spectres of torture to re-orientate sexual preference, in practice its current meaning has been broadened to include “watchful waiting” over children instead of active support for transition.

Again, more broadly than Ontario, the Victorian act extends from registered therapists to any person offering to improve mental health, doubtless including pastors of churches. Could it include parents? Far exceeding Canadian enthusiasm, the Victorian act has reversed the traditional human right regarding onus of proof: the accused in Victoria must prove innocence. Minister Hennessy, however, assures us that “there is a negligible risk … an innocent person [could be] convicted”.

Some groundwork for a regulatory approach similar to Canada’s has already been laid in NSW too. With regard to a parent’s unfavourable response to a child declaring him or herself transgender, the NSW Education and Communities’ Legal Issues Bulletin no 55 (December 2014) declared that this situation “could give rise to a reasonable suspicion that the student is at suspected risk of harm”. In that case, “school staff should inform their principal”, who would need to consider the mandatory obligation to inform Community Services.

The utopian ideology of gender fluidity is attractive and hundreds of children are responding to the Piper’s tune and the promise of a “joyous land”. Perhaps not as definitive as the mountain cavern they entered in the old fairytale, the end of the medical pathway is, nevertheless, grim: chemical and hormonal transformation of the brain and body and, probably, the surgeon’s knife, followed by a lifetime of medical supervision and ongoing hormone treatment.

In the fairytale, the Mayor and Council of Hamlyn, and presumably the children’s parents, were changed “into blocks of wood, unable to move a step or cry” as the children pursued the pathway. These days, it could be the legislature that binds the parents.

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