January 27th 2018

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Loy Yang just latest critical asset to go offshore

EDITORIAL Behind the power shift in the Middle East

CANBERRA OBSERVED Freedom of religion just an afterthought?

GENDER POLITICS Family Court washes hands of gender-dysphoric kids

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Western sanctions have forced Russia to upskill

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS China exerts soft power on our southern neighbour

ENVIRONMENT Senate committee puts marine life before people

SEXUAL ABUSE Royal commission report ignores cause of abuse

HIGHER EDUCATION Critical thinking and the culture of skepticism

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS U.S. urges Taiwan rearmament to counter China threat

PHILOSOPHY A reflection on thoughts of Richard Dawkins

MUSIC Group theory: A good band is greater than its parts

CINEMA Darkest Hour: A long time till dawn

BOOK REVIEW 'Populism' and the new social divide

BOOK REVIEW Poems outshine dross of inept introduction



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Family Court washes hands of gender-dysphoric kids

by Patrick J. Byrne

News Weekly, January 27, 2018

If minors can decide to have hormone sex transitioning treatments without Family Court approval, are children also capable of making their own decision to become child brides or child soldiers?

In a landmark decision on November 30, 2017, a Full Bench of the Family Court ruled that Court approval was no longer needed for young people with gender dysphoria seeking to undergo hormone treatment to transition to the opposite sex.

The case revolved around a young Victorian, born male, but who has sought to transition to be a female. The news was given to the family by Dr Michelle Telfer, head of the gender service at Melbourne’s Royal Children's Hospital.

Stage 1 hormonal treatment in early adolescence involves the administration of puberty "blockers" that suppress the hormones responsible for puberty. Stage 2 “cross-sex” hormones are administered in in mid to late adolescence. These cause the child to develop the pubertal characteristics of the sex with which they identify. Some of these characteristics, such as a deepening voice, are irreversible, while others, such as breast development, require surgery to reverse.

Later stage transitioning can involve permanent sex-change surgery.

As leading paediatrician Dr John Whitehall has reported, the increase in numbers of children presenting to the Family Court appears to have worn down the Court’s willingness to deal with the cases. [1]

The issue of children transitioning raises serious ethical issues.

Children are minors. This usually refers to children under the age of 18, legally demarcating childhood from adulthood, when a person can drive a car, drink alcohol, vote in elections, join the armed forces and marry.

If minors are going to be given the legal right to make decisions to change their sex, instead of waiting until adulthood, should children be allowed to make their own decision as to when they can leave school and work, or join the army to become child soldiers or marry as child brides?

The Age wrote recently: “The Royal Children's Hospital has received more than 230 patient referrals this year, and more than 700 since 2003. Of these, 96 per cent diagnosed with gender dysphoria continued to identify as transgender into late adolescence.” [2]

Is this really the case? Hormonal treatments can fundamentally change a person’s physiology, including changes to the brain. Given that this is uncharted territory, possible longer-term outcomes are concerning, especially given that there are often co-existing conditions such as autism, depression, anxiety, oppositional defiance, attention deficit and even mental retardation. [3]

It is also the case that in a 2008 review of the incidence and approaches to treating gender dysphoria, Dr Alexander Korte (medicine) et al., found that between 80 per cent and 97.5 per cent of children with gender dysphoria have resolved their identity uncertainty by adulthood and identify only with their biological sex as recorded at birth.

Dr Korte and his colleagues concluded that even among children who manifest a major degree of discomfort with their own sex, including an aversion to their own genitalia (gender dysphoria in the strict sense), “only a minority go on to an irreversible development of transsexualism.” [4] It appears that this evidence has not been presented or considered by the Family Court.

Further, there are an increasing number of cases of people wanting to reverse their transitioning treatments: that is, they want to de-transition.

James Caspian, a registered UK psychotherapist, has worked for a decade with hundreds of transgender and transsexual patients and supported many through gender transition. He told the UK Daily Telegraph that increasingly it was younger people seeking to transition.

However, after hearing from others in his profession that more and more people were seeking surgery to reverse their gender-reassignment surgery, he enrolled at Bath Spa University to research the de-transitioning issue in 2014.

That same year Caspian spoke with Miroslav Djordjevic, a leading genital-reconstructive surgeon working in Serbia and New York, who mentioned he had done seven reverse gender-reassignment surgeries. All were transgender male-to-females seeking to restore their male genitalia. Djordjevic said someone needed to research this new phenomenon.

According to The Australian, Caspian was shocked by his preliminary research findings. “I found that, particularly in the U.S., there are increasing numbers of very young women who decided they were trans, had taken testosterone, some had breasts removed and then realised, typically in their early 20s if not before, that it was a mistake. This is a hugely under-researched field,” he says.

Caspian warned of the rise of gender clinics that operate on the principle that if people say they have a new gender identity, “you accept that”.

“You must not question it, and that’s being written into law and policy. If you can’t question this, if you can only affirm, then you don’t explore.”

Caspian’s experience is that people seeking gender-transition treatment are varied and complex, and many have serious underlying issues that are not explored. “My concern is for safe clinical practice and to do no harm,” he said. [5]

Despite the concerns, his application to the Bath Spa University to research the growing issue of people wanting to reverse their transitioning medical treatments was refused.

Until the transgender issue became prominent on the internet and promoted in programs like Safe Schools, incidence of child gender dysphoria was extremely rare.


1. Dr John Whitehall, Professor of Paediatrics at Western Sydney University, “Gender dysphoria and surgical abuse”, Quadrant, December 2016.

Dr John Whitehall, “Childhood gender dysphoria and the law”, Quadrant, May 10, 2017.

2. “ ‘I want control over my body’: Transgender kids in landmark court win”, The Age, November 30, 2017.

3. Dr John Whitehall, “The Pied Pipers of gender dysphoria”, News Weekly, July 1, 2017.

4. A. Korte, Goecker, D., Krude, H., Lehmkuhl, U., Grüters-Kieslich, A., & Beier, K.M., “Gender identity disorders in childhood and adolescence: Currently debated concepts and treatment strategies”, Deutsches Ärzteblatt International, 105(48), 209, pp834–841.

5. “First cut is the deepest but reversal also traumatic for trans communityThe Australian, October 28, 2017.

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