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Time to talk
A new group in Italy is pushing for open debate on gender medicine
Parents in Italy have founded a new civil society group, GenerAzioneD, with the hope of creating an ideology-free space to discuss the surge in young people suddenly seeking transgender medical interventions.
“The discourse is [currently] characterised by a strong polarisation according to which on one side there are ‘progressives’ and on the other side there are ‘bigots’, a spokesperson for the group told GCN.
“There is a lack of a free and non-ideologically oriented space for discussion.”
Like its predecessor group Genitori de Gender, GenerAzioneD was formed by a small number of parents with trans-identifying children, but the new group is broader and open to anyone with a personal or professional interest in the phenomenon described by American researcher Dr Lisa Littman as “rapid-onset gender dysphoria”.
“Media coverage in Italy is inadequate — there is a lack of basic information and thus awareness about what gender dysphoria is, and what the gender affirmative pathway is, what steps it consists of and what risks it entails,” the spokesperson said.
The gender clinic in Rome — the Service for the Adjustment between Physical Identity and Psychic Identity — saw a 315 per cent increase in adolescent referrals between 2018 and 2021, according to GenerAzioneD.
From the newsroom
The national newspaper La Stampa, seen as progressive, published a January 30 article announcing the arrival of the “almost secret” group GenerAzioneD, with a mix of straight reporting and the journalist’s alarm that these parental concerns could be misused by reactionary forces. (Parents spoke anonymously to protect the privacy of their children.)
La Stampa quoted parents from the group saying that they did not seek to normalise or repress their children, nor were they troubled by signs of gender non-conforming behaviour or same-sex attraction.
But they were concerned about these young people — some with serious psychological problems — suddenly asking for life-altering medical interventions before they were fully mature.
“We have formed an association to call for more reflection and attention on such a divisive issue as gender dysphoria, and we know that we will immediately be attacked as transphobic, retrograde, bigoted, and so on,” one parent told La Stampa.
“We just want to make sure that we have done everything possible for the well-being of our children.
“We would like it to be understood that having a son or daughter who wants to have healthy parts of his or her body amputated, to be medicalised for life, is certainly not a celebration, as is often made out to be.”
Another parent said: “I have discovered that there are detransitioners, those who would like to go back. I am consumed with the fear that [my daughter’s] obsession may be merely transitory, perhaps fuelled and induced by a social contagion.
“I believe that such radical choices should be left to the age of majority [at 18], but it does not seem possible, everything seems to have to be done now and quickly.”
The press release announcing GenerAzioneD was largely ignored by national media but picked up by Italy’s Feminist Post. La Stampa’s article was followed by a burst of coverage asserting the positives of youth gender medicine, in one case without naming or seeking comment from the new group.
An article in the newspaper La Repubblica claimed that puberty blockers were “temporary and reversible” and that this hormone suppression merely “allows time to pass, and therefore gives adolescents the chance to mature, without forcing them to live with that profound despair that very often (and we know this!) leads to suicide.”
La Repubblica did not publish a letter challenging these claims; the letter also highlighted the view of the London-based LGB Alliance and others that many gender non-conforming teenagers medicalised as trans would grow up to be LGB adults if left alone.
GenerAzioneD said it had been getting new requests for membership daily since La Stampa’s coverage.
“The founding members of GenerAzioneD are parents with children with gender identity issues. The group includes different skills and expertise — medical, legal, communication, IT, etc — each one putting their time and skills at the service of a common cause,” the spokesperson told GCN.
The group is also in contact with psychiatrists, lawyers and bioethicists.
In January, the Italian Psychoanalytic Society became the first health professional body in the country to raise public concerns about puberty blockers; it sent a letter to Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.
This action by the society’s president Dr Sarantis Thanopulos and executive has generated pushback including within the society, and the issue is expected to be discussed at a meeting in March, GCN has been told.
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The GenerAzioneD spokesperson said the group was not aware of any public data on the use of puberty blockers and opposite-sex hormones among minors in Italy, nor on any follow-up of young patients.
A 2019 document from the Italian Medicines Agency refers to collection of clinical monitoring data — including bone density readings — to track the use of the puberty blocker drug Triptorelin, which is government-funded for gender dysphoria. (Triptorelin is also used for prostate cancer.)
The agency recommends prolonged intervention with Triptorelin from early puberty until around the age of 16, but also gives some cautious advice.
It says the dysphoria diagnosis should be confirmed by a specialist multi-disciplinary team. And it stipulates that psychopathology potentially interfering with diagnosis or gender treatment should first be stabilised.
GenerAzioneD said it was not clear which clinics in Italy were dispensing puberty blockers.
“It should be a few selected centres with multidisciplinary teams, but there is no certainty about this,” the spokesperson said.
“According to our experience as parents, very often our children’s previous pathologies and disorders — for example, depression, social anxiety, self-harm, ADHD and borderline personality disorder — are no longer adequately taken into account after their identification as transgender.
“Also in our experience, the diagnosis of gender dysphoria can be made very lightly and superficially — two or three meetings with the child can be more than enough, even when co-morbidities [such as mental health disorders] are present.”
The group said that under Italian law, parental consent was required for treatment of minors.
“However, in exceptional cases, there is the possibility that the judge and social services take over, at which point, in the supposed interest of the child, the consent is bypassed, the judge gives it and entrusts the child to the social services,” the spokeperson said.
“It must be kept in mind that many parents are caught between their children’s discomfort and suffering, and a narrative that denying their consent would make them bigoted and transphobic — and above all expose their children to a very high suicide risk.
“In our experience, for these reasons, many parents feel ‘forced’ to affirm their children in their new identity.”
The group said the American-influenced “gender-affirming” treatment approach was making inroads in Italy.
One key function of the group will be to disseminate information via its website, including international articles not yet available in Italian.
GenerAzioneD said landmark English-language books, such as Irreversible Damage by Abigail Shrier and Helen Joyce’s Trans, had not been translated into Italian.