Australia’s first demonstrations against gender clinics took place in Brisbane, Melbourne and Hobart last week to raise awareness about risky medicalisation of young people who don’t fit sex role stereotypes. “I was very much a gender non-conforming little girl, a tomboy,” said feminist Taylor McGowan, 25, who joined a small group protesting outside the Queensland health department offices in central Brisbane. “Had I been a teenager growing up through this gender ideology I could have had health professionals tell me I’m probably trans, been diagnosed with gender dysphoria and given hormones and a mastectomy.” Ms McGowan, who had been on track to become a nurse, said Queensland’s new criminal law against “conversion therapy” discouraged legitimate non-medical responses to distress around puberty, such as psychotherapy or cognitive behaviour therapy.

Organisers said there were academics, lawyers and other professionals who did not join last week’s protesters because they feared being identified and branded as “transphobic” and losing their jobs. Children’s hospitals in Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth have rapidly expanding gender clinics following the “gender affirmative” medical model, which offers puberty blockers to stop unwanted development and cross-sex hormones to mimic the body of the opposite sex. There is no medical intervention until the onset of puberty. Some under-18s are referred to private surgeons for mastectomy, but there is no good public data on gender medicine. Gender clinicians and transgender activists claim these interventions can be life-saving for those minors who suffer severe distress about feeling “born in the wrong body”, although the evidence on treatment safety, benefit and suicide risk is contested.

Mainstream media sought comment from the gender clinicians group AusPATH,  the health ministers of Victoria and Queensland, and the gender clinics at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne and the Queensland Children’s Hospital however none would comment. After some years of muted concern, groups of worried parents and professionals including left-wing lesbians and Christians have turned to street protests, billboards and even truckside advertising to reach mainstream audiences they believe have been misled about gender medicine by elites, including “progressive” media outlets. Feminist Stassja Frei, who took part in the protests outside the office of Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley, said she had been drawn into the debate after seeing social media denunciation of a supposedly “transphobic” open letter by author JK Rowling.

“I imagined she must have said something straight out of the 1950s, and instead I found I agreed with everything she said,” said Ms Frei, who founded the non-partison  Coalition for Biological Reality. Ms Rowling’s June 2020 letter expressed alarm about a 4,400 per cent increase in female patients at Britain’s UK Tavistock youth gender clinic, and quoted experts suggesting it might be social contagion and questioning the suicide narrative driving medical treatment. Ms Frei said the affirmative gender clinic model demanded proper scrutiny by a parliamentary inquiry, highlighted the weak evidence base for treatments, the risk of regret and the emerging group of young adult de-transitioners who come to believe medicalised gender change was a harmful mistake.

“Mr Foley can’t ignore these issues forever, they will come back to bite him,” she said. This month, Britain’s National Institute of Health Care Excellence declared that the evidence for puberty blockers helping mental health was of “very low certainty” and the evidence for the safety and effectiveness of cross-sex hormones was “very low” quality. The findings feed into an official review of under-18 gender dysphoria treatments led by Dr Hilary Cass, a former president of the UK Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. Two of the Australian protests had help from a new US-based group Partners for Ethical Care, which staged US protests outside gender clinics in New York City, Los Angeles and Utah.

Co-founder Jeannette Cooper said the group was “founded in compassion” and saw children as “victims of this normalisation of minors being medicalised for distress”. She said the key was to ask everyday people questions, “Do you think that children can be born in the wrong body?” or “Did you do anything as a teenager that you don’t feel good about now?”. Ms Cooper said she had lost all contact apart from letters with her trans-identifying daughter, now 14 and living with her father, because a judge accepted the child’s claim she felt “unsafe” if her mother did not go along with her new gender identity. The parents’ group Our Duty, with an umbrella organisation registered in the UK and an active branch in Australia, this week hired a truck to drive around Los Angeles, which has the largest youth gender clinic in the US, with the question “Who is Keira Bell?” emblazoned on its side.

Ms Bell, 24, is an English de-transitioner whose case against the Tavistock gender clinic led to a High Court ruling that the evidence for puberty blocking drugs is so weak that they are an “experimental” treatment, and children under 16 would struggle to give informed consent. This landmark decision on December 1 last year has been little reported in the US, and a search of Australia’s ABC website finds no mention of it. Our Duty turned to trucks after complaints led to removal of its LA billboard advertising the first mainstream book on the international explosion of gender clinic caseloads: Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters by former Wall St Journal writer Abigail Shrier.

Her best-seller has been described as “transphobic” by the American Civil Liberties Union’s trans rights lawyer, Chase Strangio, who has campaigned for its suppression. The book was chosen as one of the “best books of 2020” by The Economist magazine. A concerned Newcastle mother, Judith Hunter, tried to book a billboard promoting Ms Shrier’s book in her home town in NSW last year but was refused. Last week the company she and her husband approached, JCDecaux, said the peak body Outdoor Media Australia had advised that the billboard was likely to “generate complaints and media attention”, a spokeswoman said. Ms Shrier said parents paid for billboards out of “desperation”. “They know their daughters have been harmed except that most of the media has no interest in getting the word out or warning other parents or telling their story,” Ms Shrier said.

Source:  Compiled by APN from media reports

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