A Dramatic rise in presentation of gender dysphoria
Parents and caregivers are finding that out of the blue a child or young adolescent announces that they are non-binary or that they are in fact the opposite sex and moreover that they have always known this. Often this coincides with a period of social isolation and increased use of social media.
Alternatively, the young person has had someone in their friendship group or school recently transition to “another gender” and is suddenly the recipient of much positive attention. Concerned parents and caregivers approach psychologists, doctors or social workers to seek advice and guidance for their child, only to be told that they must affirm their child’s worldview. Few of these professionals seem to analyse the root causes of the distress.
Jan Rivers and Jill Abigail are two researchers with many decades of experience between them, particularly in the field of equal rights and social justice. Our research paper that demonstrates the following:
• The last 20 years in New Zealand and comparable countries has seen a startling rise in the numbers of children and adolescents presenting to doctors or gender clinics as wishing to change sex. In the United Kingdom and in Sweden, so alarming is the rise in numbers – of girls in particular – seeking to transition that official investigations are underway as to what is causing this.
• Children and adolescents are making life-changing decisions when their brains are not mature enough to understand the consequences. New Zealand’s transgender medicine guidelines centre on the principle of patient autonomy, but given the age and vulnerability of child patients, ethical implications must surely be addressed. Indeed, in the United Kingdom, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health decided in 2019 to undertake examination of the ethics around the rapid increase in the use of puberty blockers.
• Although puberty blockers are prescribed supposedly as a ‘pause button’, the research shows that young people embarking on these hormones almost always continue on a path to full transition, including cross-sex hormones – whose effects include sterility and impaired sexual function – and surgery such as mastectomy.
• Many of those presenting with gender dysphoria have pre-existing mental health problems, anorexia, autism, trauma, depression, ADHD, anxiety disorder, and/or a history of self-harm, sexual abuse or troubled family backgrounds. Yet those co-morbidities are not examined as possible causes of or contributors to gender dysphoria.
• There has been a change from a ‘watchful waiting’ approach to gender confusion in children to a gender-affirming approach that is largely based on sex-role stereotyping of masculinity and femininity. Where once a boyish girl or a girlish boy would have been viewed as possibly likely to grow into a gay or lesbian adult, those children are now assumed to be ‘born in the wrong body’. Yet research shows that the great majority of children with gender dysphoria grow out of it if left alone.
• Gender ideology being introduced in schools encourages children and adolescents to believe that biological sex is a spectrum, that it is one’s sense of gender identity that is real, and that one can change one’s body to match one’s perceived identity.
• There is abundant evidence that transgender medical treatment is being driven by ideological forces, not by medical diagnoses. The adult transgender lobby has been allowed to capture policy and decision-making processes to such a degree that any questioning of the gender-affirming approach is condemned as transphobic. Overseas doctors and psychotherapists have broken silence about this, but as yet New Zealand professionals have not.
Gender transition may be an appropriate treatment in adulthood for a small number of gender dysphoria sufferers, but that it is an adult decision, one that children are incapable of making. NZ professionals working with children and young people who believe that they are ‘in the wrong body”, as well as parents and care-givers have very little support to take other than an “affirmative” approach.
We believe that gender identity issues are often indicative of other factors and we want to support people to work against the new orthodoxy which automatically sees the solution to gender discomfort as social and medical transition. If you are interested to work with a group of people to provide an alternative perspective to the new medical orthodoxy get in touch via the email link below.