Other countries have undertaken investigations into the evidence base for gender “affirmation” treatments including use of puberty blockers, hormonal treatments and gender surgery. They have discontinued such treatments for minors because the evidence that it is effective care is so poor.
Instead, countries including Sweden and Finland, along with the NHS in the UK, have moved to a less radical approach to the treatment of children and adolescents experiencing a disconnect between their natal sex and their “gender”.
Rather than utilising a medical pathway deemed “experimental” because of the paucity of information on the short- and long-term effects of these treatments, these countries have adopted the more cautious “watch and wait” approach. In these countries appropriate mental health support is provided to guide and support children and adolescents seeking treatment for gender dysphoria.
Research shows the vast majority of children and adolescents who experience gender dysphoria find it resolves post-puberty, when most realise they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or heterosexual rather than trans.
With this more cautious approach children and adolescents are protected from the unnecessary medicalisation of a condition that most grow out of. With “watchful waiting” therapies, any unknown and irreversible side effects of “gender affirmation” treatments, along with transition regret, are avoided.
Despite the lack of evidence in support of “gender affirmation”, Victoria has introduced legislation that provides heavy penalties for parties including parents, schools and medical and health professionals who fail to support “gender affirmation” treatments.
We call on the Australian government to meet its obligations under Article 3 of the Convention of the Rights of the Child by immediately introducing a ban on gender affirmation treatments for minors to ensure the best interests of children are protected.
In making this call, we note the research that indicates significant numbers of children and adolescents presenting as gender dysphoric are girls on the autism spectrum, or are gay or lesbian, or present with a history of trauma or other mental health conditions or a combination of several of these. Mental health issues are not always satisfactorily addressed prior to puberty blockers, hormonal treatments or surgery being prescribed.
We further note that many trans-identified people report experiencing difficulty forming and maintaining relationships, including intimate relationships. A top gender surgeon in the USA, Marci Bowers (a trans woman) has acknowledged that children who undergo surgical treatments prior to puberty are unlikely to ever experience orgasm.
Some effects of the use of puberty blockers and hormonal treatments are already known (and are warned about on the websites of companies that produce them). However the full impacts of gender affirmation treatments on brain and physical development, health and longevity on children and adolescents are not known due to poor monitoring, poor data collection and very limited longitudinal studies having been undertaken.
Research shows that many children and adolescents presenting for treatment for gender dysphoria also experience poor mental health. It is already questionable as to what age a child or adolescent can give “informed consent”. It is questionable whether anyone can give “informed consent” when treatments are deemed “experimental” because of the absence of research into side effects and long-term health. But when a patient is experiencing untreated mental health issues it is even less likely they will be capable of exercising the judgement required to provide genuine consent or to understand the potential ramifications of a medicalised “gender affirmation” pathway, even if these risks are outlined by a treating professional.