October 19th 2019

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Greta Thunberg: she's not doing it all on her own

EDITORIAL Time for Australia to rethink the neo-liberal experiment

RURAL AFFAIRS Queensland Labor punishes farmers to placate UNESCO

CANBERRA OBSERVED Morrison's 'positive' globalism has resonance

NSW ABORTION ACT Amendments annul some of the Act's worst excesses

GENDER POLITICS Doctors call for inquiry into childhood gender dysphoria

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Hong Kong's 'software' may be key to its survival

GENDER POLITICS Pornography and the transgender agenda

RIGHTS & FREEDOMS Transgenderism poses biggest threat to religious freedom

OPINION When Maggie (Sanger) met Mickie (Mann)

PHILOSOPHY The element of justice in economic practice, Part 2 of two parts

POPULATION Lifestyles and policies ensure population peril ahead

HUMOUR If atheism is the answer, what was the question?

MUSIC Good, better, Bach: The composer who consistently outdid himself

CINEMA Joker: From a heart in darkness

BOOK REVIEW Hope, more than economics, drives Trump voters

BOOK REVIEW A pushback against visceral unreason


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Doctors call for inquiry into childhood gender dysphoria

by Dr David van Gend

News Weekly, October 19, 2019

Dr John Whitehall, professor of pediatrics and child health at the University of Western Sydney, has been a lonely medical voice in the public square on the question of gender confusion in children.

Professor Whitehall wrote to the federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt, in early September calling for a formal parliamentary inquiry into “the rapid rise of childhood gender dysphoria in Australia and the lack of scientific basis for current medical treatment”.

A group of six doctors from five states set up a website on September 22, GenderInquiry.com, to allow Australian doctors to sign a joint letter of support for Professor Whitehall’s proposal. In less than four days we had 257 signatories, including 20 professors and associate professors, 20 psychiatrists including nine child psychiatrists, 14 pediatricians and many other specialties relevant to this complex question.

We had planned to leave the site open for 14 days, but just before midnight on the fourth day we were hit by a spam attack, with false signatories coming in at about one every minute. We decided to pull up stumps at 257 genuine signatories rather than risk contamination of our list.

Our joint letter to the federal health minister demonstrates that there is a serious body of medical opinion that shares Professor Whitehall’s concerns at this astonishing epidemic of children who become convinced that they were “born in the wrong body” and are then encouraged to alter that body with hormones and surgery.

The signatories agree with Dr Whitehall, as stated in his letter to Minister Hunt of September 4: “It seems that public policy and medical ‘best practice’ is being declared in haste without a sufficient foundation of fact and reflection, and a formal parliamentary inquiry could provide that foundation.”

The Minister had already referred the matter to the Royal Australian College of Physicians (RACP) for consideration. Dr Whitehall observed, however, that “the RACP is ill fitted for such an investigation. It is, after all, an organisation primarily dedicated to the education of physicians. Interpretation of ethical issues that transcend the activities of physicians and involve participatory social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists and surgeons are beyond its purview.”

The College of Physicians has itself confirmed, in response to the Minister’s invitation, that “the RACP is primarily an educational institution and does not conduct inquiries”. The College also confirmed that it “strongly supports” the type of treatment guidelines published by the gender service at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, a commitment that seems to preclude rigorous critique of such guidelines.

Those guidelines are an example of the “medical pathway” of treatment for children with gender dysphoria, which starts with adopting the social role of the desired gender, proceeds to the blocking of puberty and, later, administration of opposite-sex hormones and the option of surgery such as mastectomy for troubled girls who believe they are boys.

Guidelines prevent the natural cure

What seems most extraordinary to an intelligent onlooker is that we know, as surely as we know anything in this field, that the vast majority of gender-confused children will simply get over their confusion at the time of puberty.

Dr Whitehall quotes a number of sources, including a review by Ristori and Steensma summarising the research evidence: “For the majority of the children (85.2 per cent; 270 out of 317) the gender dysphoric feelings remitted around or after puberty.”

How then can we justify using drugs to prevent confused children reaching the stage of puberty – the very stage that we know would resolve the confusion for most of them? If puberty is usually the “cure” for gender confusion, what are we to make of a medical intervention, however well intentioned, that deliberately blocks that cure?

The spokesman for the group of signatories, Dr Rob Pollnitz, is a retired pediatrician with 50 years’ experience; he told The Australian on September 25 that he believed gender confusion in children and adolescents was chiefly a psychological issue, not biological.

“Before we give them unproven treatments with hormones and surgery, we ought to do our very best to sort out their psychological issues,” he said.

Dr Whitehall emphasises the unprecedented escalation of gender dysphoria, observing that the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne saw “around one child every two years in 2003” but that number had risen to 104 children in 2014, and 253 in 2017.

Here’s a clue: ‘Safe Schools’

Victorians will notice that this escalation in numbers correlates to the roll-out of the radical “Safe Schools” gender program, a government-funded package of disturbing ideas that tells children their gender is fluid, not fixed; whose associated resources instruct young people in the arts of “chest binding” and “penis tucking” to disguise their unwanted sexual characteristics; which frowns on the terms “boy” or “girl” as being too heteronormative and binary.

Instead, authority figures tell children that gender is to be freely explored along the rainbow spectrum from cis-male to genderqueer to androgynous to sister-girl and all stops in between. And, if parents do not like this approach, it is parents who are the problem.

This is a gravely troubling matter.

Our joint letter appeals to the federal Health Minister to establish a parliamentary inquiry where all stakeholders – parents, teachers, lawyers, doctors and individuals who have undergone the “medical pathway” of treatment for childhood gender dysphoria – may bring their concerns to our elected representatives for thorough consideration.

Dr David van Gend is a GP in Toowoomba and co-organiser of the website GenderInquiry.com

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Last Modified:
April 4, 2018, 6:45 pm