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A draft law in Australia would end the career of health practitioners who medically transition minors
Australian health practitioners who preside over medicalised gender change for minors would be struck off under a new private senator’s bill driven by concern about the rising number of regretful detransitioners.
“If a person is under 18 in Australia, they are forbidden from buying alcoholic drinks, buying cigarettes, buying R-rated media and getting a tattoo,” federal Liberal Party Senator Alex Antic said in his second reading speech for the bill on Wednesday.
“Yet we are placing children on puberty-suppressing drugs which stunt their physical development [as a response] to what may accurately be described as a social contagion and a symptom of underlying mental health issues. This contradiction reveals a society that is failing to protect its children.”
The Childhood Gender Transition Prohibition Bill targets under-18 medical transition, which it describes as “transitioning a minor’s biological sex”. The bill would ban the use of puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and transgender surgeries such as mastectomy or the creation of an artificial vagina.
The bill introduced by Senator Antic would also prohibit any federal funding agreement—for example, grants intended for a state children’s hospital or a medical school—where the money would go towards the medical transition of minors.
“As [US] legislators, we must stop rewarding medical institutions pushing this [‘gender-affirming’] pseudoscience. That’s why I introduced [federal] legislation to block graduate medical education funding from any children’s hospital that provides gender transition procedures to minors. This bill is commonsense: When 70 per cent of Americans oppose using puberty blockers on minors, we should not force them to fund this sort of treatment with their tax dollars.”—opinion article by Texas Republican congressman Dan Crenshaw, Newsweek, 31 August 2023
“Let’s be frank: It is not compassionate to perform a double mastectomy on a teenage girl who is insecure about her body. It is not compassionate to pump a 13-year-old boy full of puberty blockers, seriously affecting his ability to reproduce in the future. Our children cannot consent to life-altering procedures, and informed consent depends on evidence-based medicine.”
Video: Transman Aaron Kimberly on the explosion of the transgender category
Damage and angst
Senator Antic told GCN there was a lot of community support for the aims of his bill, with many people being exposed to “detransition angst” as shown by 7NEWS’s recent Spotlight TV program “De-transitioning.”
“There is a growing number of young people who, having sought ‘gender-affirming care’, including hormone therapies and surgery, now believe that pursuing this course of action was a mistake and are seeking to undo the damage done to their bodies,” Senator Antic told The Australian newspaper.
The gender clinic debate is becoming more politically salient internationally, with closer journalistic scrutiny and opinion polling that registers disquiet about minors undergoing irreversible medical interventions carrying implications for their future fertility and sexual function.
The momentum began with detransitioner Keira Bell’s 2020 litigation against the world’s biggest youth gender clinic, the London-based Tavistock service, and the UK’s ruling Conservative Party decision to appoint paediatrician Dr Hilary Cass as head of an independent review of youth dysphoria care.
In August this year, the national committee of America’s Republican Party adopted a resolution to protect children from medicalised gender change and to encourage them to “love and accept their bodies.” At least 22 US states have enacted bans or restrictions on these medical interventions for minors.
In September, the national convention of Canada’s Conservative Party adopted a resolution to promote mental health support, rather than invasive medicine, as the response to “gender confusion or dysphoria.”
In Australia, there is growing awareness among centre-right politicians of the risk of medically inflicted harm to children, while centre-left governments federally and in most states repeat the slogan that gender-affirming care is “lifesaving” and seek to expand it.
Senator Antic told GCN that his bill was “a genuine private senator’s bill at the moment, there’s no endorsement from the [Liberal] Party.”
However, he said there was “a lot of support” privately within the centre-right Coalition of the Liberal and National parties, and “a lot of positive feedback from the community.”
He signalled a willingness to negotiate on the choice of mechanisms to achieve the purpose of the bill, and said he hoped it would be referred to a Senate committee.
Although health is a state responsibility, the Antic bill invokes the federal foreign affairs power and Australia’s obligation to protect children as a signatory to the international Convention on the Rights of the Child.
If a health practitioner is believed to be enabling the medical transition of minors, the federal Health Minister must take steps under the bill to have the relevant professional regulatory board cancel the practitioner’s registration. The process would require the minister to allow the practitioner 60 days to respond to a warning, and the board would have to give written reasons for the cancellation.
Senator Antic’s bill would not prohibit puberty blocker use in cases of precocious (premature) puberty, nor treatment of rare disorders of sexual development. Current off-label hormonal treatment of gender dysphoria—a feeling of being at odds with one’s birth sex—would have conditional approval to continue, but with the aim that it be wound down.
“Over the past decade or so there has been a drastic increase in the number of children and teenagers voicing confusion about their own gender (gender dysphoria),” says the explanatory memorandum for the bill.
The document cites data, obtained under Freedom of Information law, showing that the number of minors in state children’s hospital gender clinics had increased from 211 in 2014 to 2,067 in 2021.
In his speech to Parliament, Senator Antic noted that detransitioners “now question why they were ever allowed, or encouraged, to pursue this [medicalised gender] path with little, if any, meaningful examination of their mental health, personal lives, family situations, and so on.”
“We are told that we must indulge the false belief that one’s gender can be other than their biological sex, if we want to ‘save trans lives.’
“This is an emotionally manipulative, guilt-tripping tactic used to bully sensible, well-meaning people into going along with something irrational.
“We should be seeking to treat the underlying mental health conditions and insecurities, as well as cultural issues, that give rise to gender dysphoria, not encouraging it in the misguided hope that if we affirm it enough, sufferers will somehow get better.
“If gender dysphoria is reflective of a treatable, or even passing, psychological condition, likely influenced by the confusing messages that children are bombarded with on social media, entertainment and in schools, then affirming it is one of the most harmful things our society does.
“It is precisely because we care about vulnerable young people that we must speak the truth.”
“So-called ‘gender-affirming care’ can inflict dangerous and irreversible harm on children. Which is why, as part of our Protecting Minors from Gender Ideology initiative, Do No Harm is committed to supporting the rights of those who choose to detransition by advancing the Detransitioner Bill of Rights.’’—statement by the American group Do No Harm, which seeks to depoliticise medicine, October 2023
Nothing to see here
Meanwhile, in the state of Victoria, a motion to set up a parliamentary committee inquiry into the “medical affirmation treatment pathway” for minors was defeated by 21-16 votes.
It is thought to be the first time that a major political party in Australia—Victoria’s Liberal Party, which is in opposition—has endorsed a proposal for an inquiry into youth gender medicine.
Under a centre-left Labor administration, Victoria has pioneered the teaching of Queer Theory-driven gender ideology in schools and gender-affirming medicine at the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne.
Graphic: Legislative Council members who voted against a gender clinic inquiry
The motion for an inquiry, moved on Wednesday in Victoria’s Upper House by Liberal MP Moira Deeming, said in part—
“That this house:
“(1) recognises that medical affirmation of gender-dysphoric children and adolescents is currently one of the most controversial areas of medicine due to the lack of clinical consensus about what is being treated, the diagnostic process, whether a diagnosis is required, the asserted benefits, risks and outcomes of the medical pathway and the alternative pathways which exist
“(2) notes that despite international medical and legislative moves to restrict the medical affirmation treatment pathway for gender-dysphoric minors, which involves the three stages of puberty blockade, cross-sex hormones and surgery, it remains the dominant pathway in Victoria”
In her speech, Mrs Deeming spoke of “frequently made accusations” when an inquiry into gender clinics is proposed, one being that it is “part of some kind of Trumpian, far-right, anti-trans, hateful agenda, rather than being about the wellbeing of children.”
“Not that this type of pathetic, bigoted, self-serving, dogmatic nonsense even deserves a response, but the fact is that medical and legal professionals from all over the world and members of the LGB—and yes, even the T community—have joined their voices with MPs from the left and the right of politics to call, like me, for an inquiry just like this,” she said.
“Everyone should put aside their politics on this issue and do what is clearly and obviously the right thing to do.”
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“Hearing the Minister for Health [Labor’s Mary-Anne Thomas] say that [the Deeming motion was] unacceptable and hateful towards trans people—honestly, it was embarrassing. This kind of rhetoric stifles the ability to even have a discussion. I want to see an honest and frank discussion about these concerns, not just regurgitating talking points or name-calling.”—statement by detransitioner Mel Jeffries, Twitter, 20 October 2023
“Trans and gender-diverse kids and adults alike certainly are experiencing outsized rates of distress, but it is not clear why that is so. Nor whether, in all cases, the transgender ‘journey’ came before the distress. Certainly, I and other detransitioners tried to treat our distress by adopting a transgender identity. This, Premier, is why we need a review.”—open letter to Victoria’s Premier Jacinta Allan from detransitioner Lee Hazel, Twitter, 20 October 2023
Witnesses to harm
Libertarian Party member David Limbrick told the Upper House that the presence in the public gallery of two detransitioners, Mel Jeffries and Lee Hazel, was a reminder that some people are misdiagnosed and harmed by the gender-affirming model.
Mr Limbrick proposed an amendment to Mrs Deeming’s motion so the inquiry would also consider “medical treatments and services available to detransitioners.”
“If you think that what we are doing in Victoria [where the gender-affirming medical model has a de facto monopoly] is world class and top notch, you have nothing to fear from an inquiry and you have nothing to fear from this being examined and scrutinised,” he said.
“Why is it that every time someone wants to talk about this, the reaction from activists and from people in the government is to shut them up? They call them names. They say, ‘You’re a transphobe. You’re a Nazi.’
“You will not silence debate on this. Debate will happen with or without you. We are talking to people who have been harmed by this, and their voices deserve to be heard as well.”
During the debate, the Labor government’s Equality Minister Harriet Shing admitted there are “divergent views around the world as they relate to gender-affirming care, as they relate to the application of the Gillick principle [allowing minors under 16 to consent to treatment], as they relate to the way in which treatment is provided. The measure of ambiguity, however, is not a reason to extend to the idea of a veto.”
She said the framing of Mrs Deeming’s proposal for an inquiry “invites a conclusion that trans and gender-diverse identity is not only ‘other’ but is wrong.”
A Greens Party representative, Aiv Puglielli, who describes himself as an “LGBTQIA+ community member”, claimed that “Victorian medical professionals in this field are world leaders in gender-affirming care.”
He suggested those agitating for an inquiry were “transphobes”—a term he withdrew following a point of order.