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Self-ID gender is not safe
Exploitation of this system will drive down popular support for the trans community
Recently the parliament in the Australian state of Queensland passed a bill that allows any person identifying as transgender to update their sex and name on their birth certificate, with a supporting statement from someone who has known them for 12 months or more. Under this “self-ID” system, there would be no requirement that they have any psychological or medical reports, or that they are on cross-sex hormone therapy or have had gender reassignment surgery. Restrictions will limit the number of changes of name an adult can seek to three over the adult’s life, and no more than one change every 12 months. Self-ID, cut adrift from the reality of biological sex, is being passed into law in many jurisdictions across the developed world. All Australian states allow for a change to the birth certificate, and only NSW and Western Australia require either medical or surgical reassignment treatment.
As a clinical psychologist I made a submission to the Queensland parliamentary committee that considered the proposed change. I expressed concern that the new conditions allowing for easy self-identification to the preferred sex and gender may ultimately harm the trans community. Of the submissions published, 159 were supportive of the bill, 181 were not supportive and one was unclear. The committee discounted all concerns.
I recently retired after 50 years of clinical practice. My area of speciality is human sexuality, including sexual dysfunction, sexual orientation and gender diversity. In the 1970-90s, I saw many young people questioning their sexual orientation and it was my role to help them find the right pathway for them, straight, gay or bisexual. I also saw people presenting with gender dysphoria, which is the feeling of discomfort or distress that might occur in people whose gender identity differs from their biological sex. At that time, clients experiencing the distress of gender dysphoria were typically adult males, and there were rigorous criteria to be met before an individual was able to access medical and surgical interventions.”
“When I expressed concern, and stated my view that a differential diagnosis pathway needed to be developed so that a clinician could work with the young person to develop their safe outcome, I was labelled transphobic”
From around 2015 I became concerned about the rapid increase in adolescent females presenting with claims of distress about their body, and formed the view that some of these young people did not meet the criteria for transgender. When I expressed concern, and stated my view that a differential diagnosis pathway needed to be developed so that a clinician could work with the young person to develop their safe outcome, I was labelled transphobic and a complaint was made against me to the Australian Psychological Society. Fortunately, the society upheld my right to express clinical concerns.
Since then, the criteria to be considered transgender have been increasingly relaxed, so that now for a person to gain access to hormone therapy it can be enough for them to say they are transgender and want to be identified as the other gender. This approach, known as gender-affirming care, is highly contested. Up until recent times, the terms “sex” and “gender” have been used interchangeably, but under modern gender theory, sex refers to the biological state of male or female, and gender refers to the sense of being male, female, non-binary, agender, gender fluid, and so on. Not all people who change their gender identity want hormone or surgical interventions.
Many parents become concerned about modern gender theory when they learn that in most Australian states, a child can transition socially (change their name, pronouns, use preferred toilets) at school without the parents’ knowledge and consent. If parents disagree when they find out, they are often seen as “abusive” and can be reported to child welfare.
I am aware of one case in Australia of a 15-year-old female who had been allowed by her school to change her name and pronouns to male, without her parents’ knowledge or consent. She described herself as a gay trans male and wanted to go on cross-sex hormones; she only came to this conclusion after exploring sexual orientation and gender diversity online. For a while she thought she was butch lesbian, but then realised she wasn’t attracted to girls, so on the basis of not liking her thighs and wanting a deeper voice, she decided she was a gay trans male. Like many gender-questioning adolescents, she had some moderate level physical and mental health issues. After gentle exploration and discussion, however, she was happy with the view that she was gender non-conforming, which can change over time.
However, if she had been a few months older, under self-ID laws, she would have been able to change her legal sex and name, cementing her into that identity and ultimately giving her access to cross-sex hormones, which can have permanent side effects.
“This practice of ‘affirming’ young people has created a growing pool of distressed, fractured families. Often the parents have been subjected to emotional blackmail from gender-affirming health professionals, who use the threat, ‘Do you want a dead cis child or a live trans child?’”
This practice of “affirming” young people has created a growing pool of distressed, fractured families. Often the parents have been subjected to emotional blackmail from gender-affirming health professionals, who use the threat, “Do you want a dead cis child or a live trans child?” The evidence does not support the claim that young people identifying as trans are at great risk of suicide.
Further, it seems to be an obvious conclusion that when criteria are weakened for any category, the error rate, that is, the percentage of misclassifications, will increase, but applying that truth to the gender-affirming policy is enough to bring down an avalanche of abuse. Nevertheless, there is an increase in people (known as detransitioners) regretting their transition and changing back to their original sex/gender, some left with irreversible side effects. Their account of their experience with the health system is disturbing. To date, there has been very little in the way of health services and support groups for people who regret transition, but that is changing.
It isn’t only young people I’m concerned about. Throughout my career, I saw clients with a paraphilia (referred to colloquially as a fetish) of one kind or another, and these were almost 100 per cent male: wearing women’s clothing, leather, used female panties, plaster casts, women’s shoes, exhibiting the penis, watching females undress or use a toilet, and so on. The most disturbing time of my career was working for the Department of Health in the state of N.S.W. during the 1980s, when I was required to assess serious sex offenders for court or for parole.
My experience with sex offenders taught me that they are very good at what they do: they are drawn to places where they can access victims, they will use any ruse to target victims, and they never feel guilt or empathy.
Self-ID gender laws are a gift to sex offenders of any level of seriousness. A man who identifies as a woman is legally allowed access to any female spaces: domestic violence refuges, lesbian groups, change rooms, sports and so on. A woman’s right to complain is denied. If a woman complains about a male-bodied person in a change room, even if that person is watching females young and old undress, or exposing his penis, it is the woman who will be regarded as the problem and may be disqualified from using the service.
If a criminal of any type wants to change identities, and does so under the proposed legislation, how is this tracked? Have police services been properly consulted about these laws? Will it be more difficult to track and identify offenders of any crime?
There is evidence that male criminals—and it seems mainly those with a history of sexual assault—are already gaining from declaring themselves transwomen. Data from the U.K. provides a useful insight.
U.K. Ministry of Justice figures from March-April 2019 showed—
76 of the 129 male-born prisoners who identified as trans had committed at least one sexual offence
This includes 36 convictions for rape and 10 for attempted rape. These are clearly male-type crimes (rape is defined as penetration with a penis)
The total of 129 trans-identified prisoners does not include those with a more difficult to obtain “gender recognition certificate”
Consider the proportion of sex offenders by category—
58.9 per cent of the transwomen prisoners were sex offenders (76/129)
16.8 per cent of the men in prison were sex offenders (13,234/78,781)
3.3 per cent of the women in prison were sex offenders (125/3,812)
There are two ways this data can be interpreted. One is that male sex offenders have changed their gender after conviction to be able to transfer from a male prison to a less harsh female prison. The other view is that transwomen are more likely to commit sexual offences. See this discussion of the U.K. data by the group Fair Play For Women. However, I would stress that the transwomen I know are ordinary, law-abiding people. In my view, the U.K. data supports the unsurprising conclusion that self-ID gender change is being exploited by some sex offenders. The fact remains that trans-identifying male offenders are casting a negative light on the trans community. Adding to this negative perception are cases in Australia where trans-identified offenders are described as women rather than men.
“Many gay women and men have become increasingly disturbed by the demands of trans people identifying as gay”
The trans community is also losing support from sections of the gay community. In the past, gay people would have been natural trans allies, but many gay women and men have become increasingly disturbed by the demands of trans people identifying as gay.
Under modern transgender theory, the meaning of homosexuality has been changed from same-sex attraction to same-gender attracted. According to this redefinition, a male-born person who has not undergone sex reassignment but identifies as a woman can identify as a lesbian. Similarly, transmen (biological women) can claim to be gay trans males. In 2021, a ruling in the state of Tasmania decreed that lesbians will be breaking the law if they host single-sex spaces. The state Anti-Discrimination Commissioner, Sarah Bolt, banned LGB Alliance Tasmania from hosting lesbian events that exclude transwomen, on the grounds that such gatherings carry a “significant risk” of breaching equalities legislation.
Further adding to the dissatisfaction of gay people is their belief that the gender-affirming policy is a form of gay conversion therapy. Most young people being referred to gender identity services describe themselves as being attracted to others of the same sex. For 16-year-olds, having easy access to changing name and sex can take them down a medical pathway that ultimately isn’t in their best interests.
Whatever factors are in play, two recent polls, one in the U.K. and the other in the U.S., have reported a gradual erosion of support for transgender rights. In some areas, the shift is very pronounced. Hence my concern that self-ID laws such as Queensland’s will ultimately be negative for the trans community itself. Many people support the trans community as they support the gay community, believing it is about fairness and inclusivity. My trans clients are ordinary people living in their preferred gender, accepted in the community with maybe a second look sometimes, but essentially no different from anyone else: students, workers, single or in relationships, in choirs, and so on. Unfortunately, with current policy such as self-ID, support for trans people is likely to keep dropping.
Note: This article is based on Dr Pertot’s submission to Queensland’s parliament
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